Esquimalt has taken a step toward banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers and other landscape equipment.
The township is giving the market two years to prepare as the community will review phasing out the use of gas-powered equipment by staff, residents and companies by no later than September, 2024.
Esquimalt needs to ensure worker access to charged batteries out in the field. Staff are looking at how to expand charging stations beyond three current locations by using existing maintenance sheds and making sure a full complement of charged batteries can be available each morning. Commercial landscapers are also impeded by access to charging and the strength of some equipment.
The review timeline was approved at the Sept. 20 meeting. Councillors directed staff to explore how Esquimalt can assist landscaping companies make the switch through incentives at the municipal or provincial level. Council discussion noted the price of gas will be top-of-mind right now for companies as they look at their operations.
Esquimalt parks workers currently using electric backpack leaf blowers, handheld blowers, line and hedge trimmers and chainsaws. A staff report said the electric models produce less noise, are less expensive to operate and maintain, and are easier to start. However, the capital cost of batteries and chargers needs to be considered.
The township has already begun phasing out small fuel-powered blowers, chainsaws and hedge trimmers. Challenges remain centred around the run time and power of equipment needed for larger tasks.
Staff said electric backpack blowers, for example, have about 20-minute run times and, unlike their gas counterparts, they struggle to move wet leaves, grass and soil.
Electric chainsaws are ideal for cutting trees or branches under 16 inches in diameter, but technology needs to improve to cut thicker wood and operate longer, the report said. Staff noted the technology of zero-emission equipment is quickly improving with longer-lasting batteries and increased power.
An upside to the electric models is parks workers love using them, staff said. Electric equipment like handheld blowers and hedge trimmers are the parks workers’ preferred choice, being easier to handle and having longer operation times.
The residential transition is seen as smoother since those typically-smaller properties are easier to maintain and homeowners have access to charging in their home or garage.
Mayor Barb Desjardins said the township needs to make a strong statement on supporting the switchover.
“I think we’ve reached a good way of moving forward.”
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