For years, gasoline has been the standard for powering commercial mowers. But in recent years, gasoline prices at the pump have spiked during the height of the mowing season, encouraging landscape contractors to find alternatives that cost less. Regional emissions restrictions may also impact Colorado contractors operating gasoline-powered mowers along the Front Range, too.
Some landscapers in the state have already found another fuel solution to combat both of these operational challenges: propane. Not only does propane produce fewer emissions than gasoline, it costs less per gallon—and can provide contractors with several other benefits.
- Propane mowers reduce emissions. According to independent research commissioned by the Propane Education & Research Council, using a propane mower can reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions by 17%, nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions by 19%, and sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions by 16% when compared to gasoline. When air quality action days restrict use of gasoline equipment, propane can keep working.
- Propane costs less than traditional fuels. The wholesale price of propane falls between the prices of natural gas and oil, which prevents the alternative fuel’s price from fluctuating as sharply as gasoline. Typically, propane costs between 30% to 50% less per gallon than gasoline. When gasoline prices soar above $3 per gallon as they often did for extended periods of time in 2018, the savings for contractors operating propane equipment is even greater. (Click here to view PERC’s propane mower cost calculator.)
- Propane mowers have a low total cost of ownership. Over the life of a propane mower, contractors often report seeing lower fuel costs, improved maintenance and an increase in daily productivity, all of which add up to a lower total cost of operation. For example, contractors can set up a cylinder exchange program with a propane retailer that ensures crews leave each morning equipped with full propane cylinders, removing downtime at gas stations throughout the day.
- Contractors don’t have to switch brands to run propane. Almost every major brand of mower has propane models available, so contractors don’t need to transition away from their brand of choice to operate with propane. In fact, more than 150 models are available from 14 manufacturers that contractors may already have in their fleets. Additionally, four EPA- and CARB-certified aftermarket conversion kits can allow nearly any commercial mower to run on propane.
- Propane mowers can qualify for purchase incentives. Because of propane’s reduced emissions, financial assistance is often available to make the switch to propane mowers. For example, the Propane Mower Incentive Program from PERC allows contractors to receive $1,000 for each new, dedicated propane mower or $500 for a certified propane conversion kit—about the price difference between a propane mower and a comparable gasoline unit. Colorado’s Mow Down Pollution program also offers grants for purchasing propane-powered commercial mowers. State and regional organizations, including local chapters of the Clean Cities Coalition or other local environmental groups, may also offer additional incentives.
Jeremy Wishart is the director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be contacted at [email protected]