The propane industry has been focused on lawn care and landscaping companies for several years now. Incentive programs designed to encourage contractors to buy new propane-fueled mowers and/or convert existing gas-powered fleets over to propane have been successful, says Jeremy Wishart, projects manager for the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). Wishart spoke to Green Industry Pros at the recent GIE+EXPO in Louisville.
Roughly 925 end users (i.e. landscape contractors) had applied for PERC incentives leading up to GIE+EXPO on October 24. "We're starting to pick up more now at a faster pace," Wishart added. The 2012 rebate program had been extended through this year, and will continue through 2014. "Then, when the fund runs out, we'll just ask the PERC Board for more," Wishart said.
There's good reason to believe that the PERC Board will respond favorably. Thus far, the majority of the action has taken place on the "new mower" side as opposed to conversions. As more contractors look to upgrade existing mower fleets in coming years, and more mower manufacturers incorporate propane mowers into their lineups, demand is expected to grow organically.
John Deere recently added propane-powered models to its lineup, bringing the number of manufacturers to 16. Additionally, the introduction of Kohler's propane EFI (electronic fuel injection) engine, which helps to substantially reduce fuel consumption, offers further incentive for contractors to make the switch to propane. Kohler's propane EFI engine is currently exclusive to Exmark, but will be expanded to additional brands in coming years.
Right now, Wishart estimates that propane mowers have roughly 3% market share in the commercial mower arena. "We have a goal of 10%," Wishart said.
Dealers have helped to grow market share, and will continue to play a pivotal role going forward. Seven manufacturers currently participate in PERC's Dealer Demonstration program. Dealers are given $2,000 per mower to stock and demo it for at least 90 days; the $2,000 can be applied to their OEM floorplan purchase price for the mower.