June 24, 2009
Charlotte, NC-- Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department has converted two pieces of gasoline powered maintenance equipment to run on clean-burning propane. The conversions are part of the department’s ongoing exploration of alternative fuels to reduce air pollution and educate the public about ways to be better stewards of the environment.
This is important in Mecklenburg County because it is one of eight counties in a non-attainment region for ozone air pollution. Ozone is created when hydrocarbon emissions react with sunlight in the air.
The two recently converted vehicles are a D.R. Field and Brush mower (large walk behind mower) and a Kawasaki Mule (off-road utility vehicle). The cost of converting them to run on propane was $728 for the mower and $920 for the utility vehicle. The mower required a propane tank, new fuel line and regulator, plus modifications to the carburetor. The utility vehicle required a tank, fuel line, regulator, and a new carburetor. Park and Recreation believes these are among the first of these type vehicles converted to run on propane, which costs about the same to use as gasoline at current prices.
Using propane has two significant advantages. Air emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide are significantly reduced in engines using propane, compared to gasoline. And if accidentally released into the air, propane is nontoxic and vaporizes with no risk of contaminating water or soils. Park and Recreation will use these propane vehicles in routine maintenance at nature preserves.
Are the conversions worth the cost? “What is the price and value of healthy air to breathe?” asks Michael Kirschman, Park and Recreation’s Division Director for Nature Preserves and Natural Resources. “There is no market rate for clean air. We are trying new technologies to see what works and what can be cost effective in the long run. We will test these and see how it goes. Park and Recreation wishes to be a leader in protecting our environment and natural resources.”
Kirschman says these two conversions are among several technologies being studied by the Park and Recreation department. Other parts of the AF (alternative fuel) fleet include:
- Two GEM electric Vehicles (with plug-in charging, used for maintenance)
- A GEM electric vehicle that charges from a solar panel (used for maintenance)
- An electric BadBoy Buggy (with plug-in charging, for off-road utility and maintenance)
- 12 electric-powered Segways (for nature preserve tours and use by Park Watch)