Propane mowers and utility vehicles are part of a growing trend in grounds-equipment specification — greater interest in the sustainable benefits of equipment — in addition to more traditional factors that include performance, durability, and cost.
The interest in reducing the impact of these engines on the environment is understandable. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates engines in landscape-maintenance equipment are responsible for up to 10 percent of the air pollution in the United States because of the high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides they produce.
As environmental responsibility grows among their organizations, grounds managers in institutional and commercial facilities are focusing more of their efforts on learning about the potential benefits and applications of mowers and utility vehicles featuring engines powered by propane.
Among the benefits of propane is it has a smaller impact on the environment, as well as an organization's bottom line, and it is available through an established distribution system. A growing number of managers are trying to determine if their organizations' needs can benefit from the advantages propane offers.
For example, propane-fueled pickup trucks emit lower levels of carbon and greenhouse gases than their gasoline-powered counterparts. Compared to gasoline engines, propane vehicles reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by an average of 19 percent, cut nitrogen-oxide emissions by 20 percent, and lower carbon-monoxide emissions by up to 60 percent.
Some propane-fueled trucks offer new liquid-propane injection systems that provide the same horsepower, torque, and towing capacity as gasoline versions of the trucks.
Economics play an important part in any grounds manager's decision on whether or not to upgrade equipment. That said, propane mowers are about 20 percent less expensive to operate than their gasoline-powered counterparts. So in just months, these operational savings can help balance the initial cost of propane mowers, which can cost about 10 percent more to purchase than gasoline mowers.
Beyond that, tanks for propane mowers tend to be larger than tanks for gasoline mowers, so propane units can provide longer run times, and less frequent refueling means fewer chances for spilled and wasted fuel.
Using propane also can lead to higher productivity for equipment operators because the propane is stored in cylinders, so workers can transport and swap them out quickly. Also, this closed fuel system makes it more difficult for debris such as grass clippings, dirt, and water to clog fuel lines.
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