Non-road spark ignition engines and equipment

Why are emissions associated with non-road spark ignition engines and equipment a problem?

Emissions from non-road spark ignition engines and equipment can be a significant source of air pollution in some urban air-sheds. These engines cover a wide range of petrol powered equipment, including:

  • Marine engines, such as outboard, in-board and stern-drive engines
  • Outdoor powered equipment (mainly garden equipment), such as trimmers, brush cutters, leaf blowers, chain saws, chippers, cement mixers, pumps and generators.

Such engines and equipment are a significant source of pollution because they don't have the same advanced emission controls found in on road engines. They emit air pollutants at much higher rates and contribute to ground level ozone formation.

Is there a national approach to minimising emissions from non-road engines?

In April 2014, Australian Environment Ministers agreed to work towards establishing a National Clean Air Agreement to ensure that the community continues to enjoy clean air and address impacts on human health and the environment. Consistent with this approach, Ministers also requested the finalisation of a number of key existing projects aimed at improving air quality standards and reducing emissions, including a Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on options to reduce emissions from non-road spark ignition engines and equipment (NRSIEE).

On 15 December 2015, Environment Ministers endorsed the National Clean Air Agreement which includes introducing exhaust and evaporative emissions standards for non-road spark ignition engines and equipment. These will be based on Unites States Environmental Protection Agency and internationally equivalent standards. Exhaust and emissions standards will apply only to newly manufactured and imported NRSIEE products. The Department established a working group of experts – made up of industry, government and community representatives – who have provided advice on implementing the standards.

Why is the Australian Government introducing these Standards?

The proposed Standards will help reduce the adverse health effects of noxious emissions from NRSIEE which can contribute up to 10 per cent of the overall level of air pollutants in urban environments in Australia.

There are currently no regulations or standards that limit the emissions from these types of engines in Australia and all Australian environment Ministers have agreed to prioritise their introduction.

Which engines and equipment will the Standard apply to?

The proposed Standards will apply to newly manufactured or imported non-road spark ignition engines including the fuel systems (tanks, fuel-lines, caps and carbon canisters) covering a wide range of equipment. They will not apply to engines and equipment people already own. The categories that will initially be covered are:

  • Spark ignition engines rated below 19 kilowatts (25 hp) used in household and commercial operations. These include lawnmowers, ride-on mowers, mulchers, brush/line cutters, generators/pumps, chain saws, and other small handheld, pushed/pulled and/or stationary engines.
  • Marine spark ignition engines: Spark ignition engines used in marine vessels. These include outboard engines, personal watercraft and stern-drive/inboard engines.

‘Non-road’ excludes vehicles subject to other regulations such as those applying to road vehicles, and includes handheld, pushed/pulled, trailer-mounted and stationary engines. ‘Spark ignition’ excludes diesel, battery, electric, but includes petrol, LPG, CNG and LNG.

What will the Standards include?

The proposed requirements will vary depending on the type of engine or equipment. The specific details of these requirements are being developed in consultation with industry. In general the new Standards will cover:

  • Prohibition of the import, manufacture, and first supply of new engines or equipment that do NOT meet the Standards.
  • A certification process for new domestic and imported NRSIEE products, noting that many NRSIEE products already meet the proposed Standards as they meet US EPA equivalent standards.
  • an averaging and banking mechanism is being considered that will allow a family of engines to be imported that meets the Standards—on average.

Which NRSIEE don’t meet the Standards?

The Standards are performance rather than technology based. Generally four-stroke and direct injection two-stroke engines will meet the Standards. Other two-stroke engines for outboards and non-handheld equipment will not meet the Standards. There are a range of conventional two-stroke handheld equipment (e.g. chainsaws and brush cutters) that meet the standards.

When will the new Standards start?

Manufacturers, retailers, and importers should start planning to move their product lines to meet US EPA and equivalent standards now, to ensure they have compliant products when the Standards commence.

The Australian Government aims to have new Commonwealth legislation introduced in 2016, subject to the Parliamentary schedule. Regulations calling up the Standards can be made following commencement of the legislation. The Department is considering a phase-in of the Standards to allow for pre-placed forward orders and for manufacturers to adapt to the new regulations. Comprehensive information and communications with industry will be provided to prepare for the implementation of the new Standards.

Further information

If you have any questions please contact the Australian Government Department of the Environment via email: