With more than 20 years at Kohler, Mark Johansen, director of marketing–gas engines, was highly involved in the development of Kohler’s new Command PRO EFI 824cc engine.

Here, he talks about why the company introduced a new EFI engine, its development challenges and the industry’s reaction to the product.

Please share your role in the development of the new commercial engine. My responsibilities include market research, competitive analysis and product management.

Tell us why Kohler Engines feels there is a need for this new engine, and how it fits into the commercial mowing market. We developed this engine in direct response to the trends we were seeing in the industry, which is a push toward larger mowing decks and faster ground speeds in combination with growing demand for enhanced fuel efficiency.

Can you share some details about the development timeline for this engine? We started to focus on this engine several years ago after the launch of our initial closed-loop EFI engines. We invested in a work-hour equivalent of six years of design simulation. The 824 exceeds commercial duty standards and is being released to the market after more than 27,500 hours of testing.

What were some of the biggest technological challenges the Kohler team faced and overcame in developing the Command Pro EFI 824cc engine? To maximize power and torque, we developed a highly tuned air intake system that incorporates 17.5-inch manifold runners to significantly enhance airflow. We draw air in through the intake manifold into the intake port on a downward slope to improve airflow as the air goes through the valve. Traditional die-cast cylinder heads make the air turn a 90-degree angle, which limits the available power.

In addition to the optimized intake manifold, the engine features two spark plugs per cylinder head for enhanced combustion to maximize fuel efficiency and engine torque. Highly engineered baffles, cylinder heads and specially designed crankcase fins provide efficient cooling, and a high-density air cleaner minimizes debris reaching the engine.

What makes this particular commercial engine special, in your opinion? It’s our most fuel-efficient commercial engine, allowing $600 per engine per year in fuel savings over similar sized carbureted engines—based on typical usage—all while delivering needed power.

What type of reaction is Kohler Engines receiving in regard to the new engine from OEMs? Equipment manufacturers have responded strongly to the new engine—many have already committed to specifying it in their product lines and displayed it in their 2015 mowers.

Finally, do you expect the lower gasoline prices to affect acceptance of this particular engine into the industry? No. Even with lower gas prices, the 824 will provide significant savings over the course of a typical mowing season.