Mowers: Propane, Bio-Diesel Lead Alternative-Fuel Movement
Mowing turf around institutional and commercial facilities is the backbone of most grounds care operations. Managers nationwide spend untold amounts of money purchasing mowing equipment their staffs use daily to ensure turf is healthy and looks its best.
Given the high-profile role of mowing, it is natural that any change in equipment or practices faces greater scrutiny from all parties involved. The most recent change affecting mowing is the sustainability movement.
Thanks to expanding mandates for using green products and practices, managers are seeking out mowing equipment that contributes to their organizations’ green efforts.
“Customers are spending considerable amounts of money, all in an effort to be more environmentally friendly,” says Chris Anderson, marketing manager with The Toro Co.
To meet customer demands, mower manufacturers are rethinking the materials and processes they use to produce mowers, as well as the way they deliver equipment and the way customers operate them.
Managers in the market for alternative-fuel mowers have an expanding range of options to consider as manufacturers search for fuels that meet customer demands related to cost, performance, availability and emissions.
Several manufacturers offer mowers powered by propane, or liquefied propane gas (LPG). The main benefit of propane is reduced emissions. As interest in and demand for propane grows, managers should be aware it is among the most widely available alternative fuels.
Cub Cadet is among the manufacturers offering LPG-powered mowers that comply with standards set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), says Jimmy N. Eavenson Sr., chief engineer for the company’s commercial turf products.
Along with propane, the company’s gasoline-fueled engines are approved for use with E-10, an ethanol fuel mixture mandated in some areas with emissions restrictions. Eavenson says the company has scheduled tests to evaluate the performance of mowers using other ethanol-blended fuels, including E-85.
Pat Penner, marketing coordinator for The Grasshopper Co., says the company has looked at a variety of alternative fuels, including propane, algae-based fuels, and diesel.
“We continue to focus on the cleanest fuels available while participating in the research of future fuels that could someday be feasible and reduce the carbon footprint,” Penner says.
As managers continue looking for alternative-fuel mowers, manufacturers are rolling out more diesel-powered units that offer several benefits. They can deliver greater power and durability than gasoline engines, as well as greater fuel efficiency. Compared to gasoline, diesel fuel burns more slowly and produces more power per gallon.
Bio-diesel fuel also can power conventional diesel engines, and it is a renewable fuel produced domestically from new and recycled vegetable oils and animal fat.
Finally, Toro is pushing research and development into the use of hydrogen to power mowers, Anderson says. The company recently announced a partnership with the State of New York to provide turf-maintenance equipment powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which generate fewer emissions, reduce noise, and offer increased efficiency over gasoline- or diesel-powered equipment.