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Consumers Confused About Fuel Product Offerings

Published: March 05, 2020

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Consumers remain confused about the multiple fuel product offerings in the marketplace, says a study by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). The U.S. study, which has been conducted annually for seven years, shows lack of education, inadequate labeling, and dangerous marketing tactics around new fuel products, such as higher ethanol-blended gasoline, are likely causing consumers to mis-fuel. The study says more than one in five outdoor power equipment owners are currently mis-fueling and one quarter have done so in the past.

This fueling confusion can lead to potentially costly repairs, says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has stated it’s illegal to use any gasoline containing more than 10 per cent ethanol in any small engine product, like a lawn mower, string trimmer, leaf blower, generator, or UTV. There are more fuel blends and choices on the marketplace today, and consumers don’t always realize that what works in their car or truck, may damage their small engine equipment not designed, built, or warranted for it.” He adds that it’s important for consumers to select the right fuel for their outdoor power equipment as mis-fueling can invalidate a manufacturer’s warranty.

The study says nearly two in five consumers (37 per cent, up from 33 per cent in 2019, 31 per cent in 2017 and 2016, and 30 per cent in 2015) mistakenly believe that higher ethanol blends of gasoline are safe to use for any gasoline-powered lawn equipment or other small engine products, such as boats or snowmobiles. Also:

  • Roughly half of outdoor power equipment owners (51 per cent, down from 58 per cent in 2019) say they either don’t pay attention to (25 per cent) or are unsure of (27 per cent) the type of fuel they use in their outdoor power equipment.
  • Twenty per cent of equipment owners admit they currently use fuel in their equipment with higher than recommended ethanol, up from 12 per cent in 2019, 11 per cent in 2018, 12 per cent in 2017, eight per cent in 2016, and seven per cent in 2015.
  • Just over one in 10 equipment owners (11 per cent, up from six per cent in 2019), have used a fuel in an engine not designed for it.

Assumptions Part Of Problem

Some of the problem boils down to assumptions. More than three in five consumers (64 per cent) assume that any gas sold at the gas station is safe for all of their cars, as well as boats, mowers, chain saws, snowmobiles, generators, and other engine products. The price of gasoline also factors into consumer decision-making, as nearly two thirds of consumer (65 per cent) say they will use the least expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible.

Combine a consumer’s desire to save money with confusing pump labeling, and add in disingenuous marketing … and it’s no wonder these numbers are going up,” says Kiser. “As the regulator of the fuels marketplace, the government needs to improve pump labeling and educate consumers on the fuel blends available and how they should be used.”

Overcharging Batteries

When it comes to battery-powered outdoor power equipment, over four in five consumers owning this equipment (84 per cent) say they are likely to charge the battery following the instructions from the owner’s manual. But, more than three quarters (78 per cent) are likely to charge the battery overnight, more than three in five (63 per cent) are likely to charge the battery for more than 24 hours, and over half (59 per cent) are likely to leave the battery on the charger until it is needed. All of which could potentially cause damage to the battery or create a safety hazard.

It appears that most battery-powered equipment owners recognize the importance of using a battery brand that matches their equipment when replacing batteries. Nearly four in five (79 per cent) say it is important to them that the extra/replacement batteries they purchase are from the same brand as the piece of equipment they will be used for, with just over a third (35 per cent) saying it is very important.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) is an international trade association representing power equipment, small engine, utility vehicle, golf car, and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. OPEI-Canada represents members on a host of issues, including recycling, emissions, and other regulatory developments across the Canadian provinces.