Utility Vehicles: Manufacturers Roll Out Alternative-Fuel Models
Managers also are watching for advances in alternative fuels — including propane, ethanol, and bio-diesel —'that are likely to affect their selection of utility vehicles. In some cases, the motivation is an organization's sustainability efforts. In other cases, government mandates provide the impetus.
"Whatever the reason, whether legislation-driven or simply the entity's desire, it is becoming the hot topic within the industry," says Tim Koch, senior marketing manager for utility vehicles with The Toro Co.
Manufacturers also understand advances might not come as fast as managers need.
"Alternative fuel continues to be a hot topic, even as fuel costs have dropped back to lower levels," Melka says. "Environmentalism is no longer a fringe effort and has become part of mainstream life. With that said, however, the technological capability of alternative-fuel vehicles is a few years away. The near-term focus is on bio-diesel or ethanol-blend fuels running in conventional engines."
Distribution also is one hurdle to bio-diesel fuel becoming a more viable option.
"There are not a lot of places to buy it," Lund says, adding ethanol and bio-diesel fuels offer possibilities but also face a host of social and political challenges. "Right now, those don't look like big winners for utility vehicles."