The continued increase in the price of gasoline has greatly impacted the cost of operating outdoor power equipment. Operators are seeking ways to maintain overhead amidst the increasing cost of equipment operation, leading to the noticeable emergence of more efficient engine options provided by manufacturers.
Years ago, the diesel engine option was introduced. The high-density fuel offers elevated levels of efficiency while the engines themselves have proven to be extremely durable. Today, most commercial mower manufacturers offer a diesel zero-turn option.
Additional fuel-efficient options have come onto the outdoor power equipment scene in the form of both Electronic Fuel Injected (EFI) engines and engines that are biodiesel fuel-compatible. Both offer increased efficiency with little or no detrimental effects on engine performance.
ELECTRONIC FUEL INJECTED POWER
In 2007 Exmark began aggressively marketing their Lazer Z EFI. The zero-turn mower features a 28-hp Kohler engine that boasts fuel savings of up to 25 percent. "This past year we have worked with our engine manufacturer to promote the engine and its reliability and efficiency," Allen Meyer, an Exmark product manager, explains. "The kind of savings users see with an EFI engine can equate to $400-500 dollars in just one year."
EFI engines were first introduced to the outdoor power equipment industry in the late 90s. One of the first manufacturers to offer a commercial mower featuring an EFI engine was Walker Mfg. After working with Kohler to implement the system's inclusion on commercial mowers, Walker introduced their first unit using the electronically controlled fuel injection system.
"Electronic fuel injection systems offer several key advantages over carbureted engines, including: fuel efficiency, peak power and torque, startability in all temperatures and optimum throttle response," says Craig Magelan, a senior account executive at Kohler.
One of the most impressive traits of the EFI engine is its efficient operation. The system continuously monitors itself with an oxygen sensor to know for certain that all components are running at levels that ensure optimal operation. By operating at the safest and most favorable levels, the EFI system, along with boosting fuel efficiency, adds the benefit of extending the life of the engine.
"The long life of the engine is one of the most important features with an EFI," Tim Cromley, marketing manager at Walker Mfg., says. "Because the engine is running at an optimal fuel intake, it is running at the best possible temperature. This means that the heads are less likely to warp. Other things that occur when engines are running at higher temperatures are avoided as well."
The long life of the engine doesn't necessarily mean less maintenance, but maintenance is simplified thanks to the ability to connect the engine to a diagnostic machine. "Sometimes with carbureted engines, you don't know whether the problem is air balance or an issue with the fuel," explains Cromley. "With electronic diagnostics, engine maintenance is really improved."
Diagnostic units possessed by dealers can get to the root of the operational issue quickly, perhaps reducing turnover time. As always, extensive training for dealership technicians is provided by the engine or equipment manufacturer, readying techs to perform scheduled and repair maintenance on the EFI engines.
Seasonal engine maintenance is also potentially reduced when using a piece of equipment powered by an EFI engine. "Landscapers, dealers and end consumers who have used EFI-powered equipment understand the maintenance benefits," Rich Koehl, marketing and quality director for Kohler, says. "Once the equipment is stored after a cutting season, the carbureted engine requires replacing parts so that it will resume the next season without any problems. With an EFI engine, there are less maintenance requirements." This allows for an easier transition between the seasons for landscape professionals.