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Originally published in Interiors & Sources

09/21/2012

Three Sustainable Options for Lawn Mowers

Alternative fuels reduce costs, maintenance, and emissions

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Electric mowers have followed the same advancements as electric vehicles. “We’re not talking about the old electric lawn mowers with long extension cords running everywhere,” assures Smith. “These have reliable batteries, run quietly, and are easy to charge.”

Fast Facts on Fuel Consumption

  • Mowers consume 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually, about 1% of U.S. motor gasoline consumption

  • Commercial mowing accounts for 35% of this total and is the highest intensity use

  • Large property owners can consume between 900-2,000 gallons of fuel annually

  • In addition to gasoline, commercial mowing consumes more than 100 million gallons of diesel annually
Electric mowers are attractive solutions for education and healthcare as the reduced engine volume won’t disturb students and patients. These mowers also make sense for a property that already has an electric fleet or EV chargers.

However, mowing time is limited – one charge can provide 75-90 minutes of mowing (about one acre). If you have sizeable grounds, this may be a setback.

Propane and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) are abundantly available and domestically produced. While you can purchase a propane-powered mower outright, conversion kits can easily

transform your existing gas mowers. Both propane and CNG lengthen the interval between oil changes, reduce the likelihood of corrosion or clogs, and eliminate the possibility of evaporative emissions.

“Propane is a cleaner hydrocarbon because it produces at least 20% fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline,” says Leitman. Propane also costs at least $1 less a gallon than gasoline, which can be reduced further if you’re an existing volume customer.

Cost Factors
With the average commercial gas mower priced anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, expect to pay a $1,500-$3,000 premium on an alternative fuel option, Smith advises.

An electric mower typically costs $1,000 more upfront, not including the charging dock. A propane conversion kit averages $1,000-$3,000, but because propane is 30% cheaper than gas, payback can be less than a year, Leitman says.

Alternative fuels also offer steadier prices. “These alternatives are typically less expensive than gasoline or diesel and don’t suffer from the same price fluctuations that we see at the gas pump,” says Mark Smith, manager of the Clean Cities: National Clean Fleets Partnership. “You’ll be able to better calculate your fuel costs for the season or year.”

Leverage your use of sustainable mowers to market your sustainability initiatives, attract new clients, or retain existing tenants. Particularly if you use eco-friendly landscaping practices such as rain meters, drought-tolerant plants, rainwater harvesting, or natural fertilizers, sustainable mowers are a natural addition.

“The upfront investment is the main roadblock people look at. But if you’ve done your math properly, you’re going to get that payback because an alternative fuel mower is a good benefit in the long term,” stresses Dennis Smith. “They can strengthen your sustainability commitment, put you in a more competitive business position if you can mow more hours of the day, and create happier clients because there’s less disruption.”

 

Jennie Mortion jennie.morton@buildings com is associate editor of BUILDINGS


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