In addition to on-road vehicles fueled by propane, many off-road engine applications are sold throughout the United States, including mowers, trimmers, leaf blowers and forklifts.
The rising price of gasoline is a primary driver for lawn care professionals turning to propane to power their commercial mowers. The benefits of propane include time savings from on-site fuel delivery versus traveling to an off-site fueling station; less downtime as a result of approved operation on high ozone days; reduced fuel spillage; reduced maintenance costs; and longer engine lives. Each year in the U.S., refueling landscape equipment results in 17 million gallons of spilled gasoline. Unlike gasoline, if spilled, propane will not create an environmental hazard because it is non-toxic and non-caustic.
Commercial propane-fueled mowers typically hold one to two fuel cylinders for a combined fuel capacity of up to 15 gallons. Propane cylinders may be swapped out, minimizing equipment downtime. Some companies with significant landscape responsibility, such as golf course applications, choose to install on-site propane refueling for convenience and lower fuel rates.
Propane-fueled mowers may be permitted to operate even where local regulations ban gasoline mowers from running to protect air quality. Compared to gasoline, propane mowers reduce carbon monoxide emissions by up to 80 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50 percent.
Propane provides a 6.5 percent better fuel burn than gasoline. With propane burning cleaner than gasoline, repair costs are reduced by about 30 percent. Many commercial landscape fleets operating on propane have reported more hours between oil changes and less downtime for the equipment.
Propane fuels 670,000 forklifts in factories and warehouses across the nation. Propane forklifts primarily include three of the seven classes of forklifts: Class 4 (internal combustion engine trucks with solid tires), Class 5 (internal combustion engine trucks with pneumatic tires), and Class 6 (electric and internal combustion engine tractors with both solid and pneumatic tires). These internal combustion engines slowly burn propane gas from an on-board tank at a very low temperature.
Research has shown that propane-fueled forklifts provide consistent power throughout operation, run longer between refueling than electric alternatives, and refuel more quickly than electric and compressed natural gas alternatives.
An established fuel delivery and cylinder exchange structure for propane refueling exists for forklift applications. Pre-filled cylinders are delivered onsite, eliminating downtime or problems with running out of fuel. Plus, tanks can be stored outside of the factory or warehouse, opening up valuable floor space.
It takes about five minutes to completely refuel a forklift by replacing an empty cylinder with a full one. Propane-fueled forklifts with a typical 33.5-pound tank run an average of eight hours between refueling and can operate around the clock, unlike their electric counterparts that require downtime to re-power.
Propane-fueled forklifts reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent compared with gasoline-powered forklifts and 7 percent compared with diesel-powered forklifts. Because propane tanks are pre-filled upon delivery, there is no chance for spillage or evaporation on-site.
Propane produces fewer engine deposits than gasoline, resulting in lower maintenance costs. Propane-fueled forklifts can be safely operated both indoors and outdoors.
Lawn Care Equipment
Besides mowers, other propane-powered landscape equipment includes trimmers and leaf blowers.
Common 16.4-ounce propane canisters or bottles power trimmers and blowers on the market today. Tight-fitting nozzles make propane spillage less likely. And, if for some reason the fuel does spill on the ground, it will not damage soil, water, plant life, animals or humans. Propane-fueled string trimmers produce no evaporative emissions or ozone-depleting hydrocarbons. Propane-fueled lawn equipment decreases particulates by 98 percent and reduces carcinogens by 96 percent in comparison with gasoline-fueled models.
Since propane combusts in a gaseous phase, there is less corrosion and engine wear on lawn equipment powered by propane. Propane tanks are low maintenance and can last up to 40 years.