Change (and challenge) is always in the air in the power equipment universe, especially when it comes to the regulatory community.
California, which is seriously considering draconian emissions laws, is serving up one of the most vexing regulatory challenges to power equipment manufacturers and equipment users these days, offers Kris Kiser, OPEI president. The state is mulling evaporative standards that are aimed at small off-road engines, including offering incentives for landscapers and homeowners to abandon their gasoline-fueled mowers, trimmers, blowers, etc. in favor of electric/battery-powered units.
“Some companies may choose to leave the marketplace, especially people offering niche products that don’t have a significant market share there. They are going to look very closely whether it’s cost effective to do business there or bring a battery product into the marketplace,” says Kiser.
Then, of course, there is the seemingly ever-present challenge to educate the users of equipment powered by small engines to avoid fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol. Manufacturers design and warranty their engines to perform satisfactorily at no more than 10 percent ethanol. Because of misguided federal legislation a decade ago, “now we have too many gallons of ethanol chasing too few gallons of gasoline,” explains Kiser. Consequently, many stations are selling fuel with 15 percent ethanol (85 percent in many locations) and unaware power equipment users are misfueling and damaging their equipment as a result.
The OPEI has expended tremendous effort on its “Look Before You Pump” outreach program to educate users of power equipment with small engines — mowers, motorcycles, marine engines, UTVs, etc. — about the danger ethanol can do to their equipment.
The power equipment market itself, like the regulatory arena, is constantly changing. OPEI must acknowledge and help guide this change to the benefit of equipment users. For this reason, it’s relatively new Battery and Electric Products Committee is working on standards for this growing product category, says Kiser.
“We don’t favor one power source over another; we represent all of them. But there’s a significant push toward electricity and batteries,” acknowledges Kiser. He says OPEI is in the process of determining “how this shakes out in both the commercial and consumer markets,” as well as how it will be viewed by regulators.
Even more recently OPEI instituted a Robotic Electric Lawnmower Committee to oversee activities associated with the development of the ANSI/OPEI standard. It is one of more than 20 active committees within the organization, a very big challenge considering that OPEI is just over 100 member companies.