Latest EFI Engines Add to List of Benefits

Kohler Command Pro EFI ECH440LECarbon-monoxide (CO) injuries and deaths occur every year despite ample labels on portable generators, and in manuals, that warn against running a generator in spaces with little ventilation. Even running a generator outdoors but near a home’s window or door could expose family members to this invisible and odorless yet deadly gas, and one symptom of overexposure is drowsiness—which is no warning since countless people experience it every day anyway. But what if the generator itself could help save lives?

That’s what Kohler Engines wants to do. Its Kohler Command Pro EFI ECH440LE (photo above), a four-stroke, 14-hp engine with electronic fuel injection (EFI), emits significantly less CO and other pollutants than other engines without reducing performance.

The company is quick to warn that such an engine still emits some CO, so a generator using this engine still cannot be safely run in basements, attached garages and other insufficiently ventilated spaces under any circumstances. But if someone is running the machine there anyway, lower CO emissions could potentially give the operator and family members more time to recognize what’s happening and get out. The odds of survival rise when a home is equipped with CO detectors mounted strategically indoors.

Part of Kohler’s recent announcement relates to a proposed rule by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to limit portable generators’ CO emissions. While you won’t yet see the engine in any generator now available, Kohler says that one generator maker has already signed on to use the engine in a 7.5-kilowatt generator, expected to ship this April. Whatever portable generator you might have, run it well away from any openings to the house. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you position the generator 20 feet away from the home.

EFI advances toward residential gear
An added benefit to the Kohler Command Pro EFI ECH440LE is its EFI, which delivers fuel savings, better durability and easier starting. But Kohler’s array of available EFI engines, including one the company announced for riding mowers this past summer, is only some of what you’ll see in outdoor gear this spring. Here are other fuel-injection engines we’ve heard about:

Yamaha V-twins. Gravely, a division of Ariens, is the first beneficiary of three vertical V-twin engines Yamaha has announced for 2017 lawn machines. As their names denote, the MX-V EFI engines exclusively use EFI rather than carburation. Gravely makes only commercial-grade equipment, but it’s only a matter of time before EFI-class engines cross into the residential lines that Ariens sells.

Gravely Pro-Turn 200 and 400 lines with Yamaha EFIThe MX775V-EFI, MX800V-EFI and MX825V-EFI engines range from 29 to 33 gross horsepower. Three-valve hemispherical heads, closed-loop EFI (which uses an oxygen sensor for greater fuel savings) with variable ignition timing, and low-friction design are standard. Other features include easily accessible hatches for easy maintenance, a rotating grass screen for protection against clogging from debris and a specially designed stainless-steel muffler claimed to fit a variety of ZTR mower frames.

Kawasaki bolsters EFI line. Also for the commercial market, Kawasaki recently announced its 29-horsepower FX850V-EFI, built for lawn riders, which adds new functionality to the engine maker’s overall EFI capability. The new engine joins two other EFI engines in the company’s existing line: the FX730V-EFI and FS730V-EFI. All three are part of the FX and FS Series.

Among features of the enhanced system are an integrated electronic governor and an engine control unit (ECU), which together keep drive wheels and cutting blades working at peak speeds even on challenging terrain such as hillsides. Besides EFI-specific benefits, such as dependable starts in any type of weather, you can plug in a PC or tablet to diagnose problems and schedule the precise service needed.

Tillotson’s residential walk-mower engines. One of the oldest carburetor manufacturers, Tillotson recently launched a line of residential-lawnmower engines backed by the new TillotsonTCT carburetor. While not technically EFI, it achieves similar results, as this video suggests:

The company claims that the three Diamond Standard Vertical engines—140, 173 and 196cc—will deliver more power and torque, along with greater stability and lower emissions, than the typical walk-mower engine. It achieves this through the TillotsonTCT carburetor, which combines a form of mechanical fuel injection with enhanced atomization and accelerated fuel flow. It maps carburetor performance to the engine, increasing and decreasing the fuel/air mixture, to allow optimum engine performance with the lowest possible emissions. We’ll let you know once we hear which mowers this spring will use one of Tillotson’s new engines.

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‘Pink Out’ Ethanol Charity a Mixed Brew

gas cap with warningNext Monday marks the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), during which many companies have pledged to donate a portion of profits for breast-cancer research. Among these organizations is Growth Energy, the advocacy group behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 decision to allow more ethanol into fuel sold at pumps across America. Growth Energy has partnered with Sheetz, Minnoco, Protec and Murphy USA for its annual Pink Out campaign, which covers nozzles for E15, gasoline with 15% ethanol, in pink to indicate they would donate 2 cents for every gallon sold.

The BCAM campaign generates billions overall for this vital cause. And if you’re fueling up a car of the year 2001 or later, Growth Energy’s program sounds reasonable. You might already be fueling up with E15 now and then, and you probably won’t notice the slight reduction in mileage from using a higher percentage of biofuel. But in its pitch for the Pink Out program, Growth Energy isn’t giving you the whole story. The organization claims that burning gasoline harms the environment and releases harmful gases, though the main selling point for ethanol, reduced carbon-dioxide emissions, has not stood up to scrutiny.

Outdoor gear at risk
Gassing up your vehicle is one thing; the latest fuel systems should be able to handle it. For anyone filling up a gas can for use in outdoor power equipment, however, it’s another matter. Gasoline in general can cause engine trouble if left sitting for long periods. Yet the ethanol mixed in makes engines run hotter, stiffens rubber and plastic parts, and attracts water, which at the very least hinders starting.

Manufacturers accept that their customers will use gas with 10% ethanol, E10, which is found across the country. If you use E15 in outdoor power equipment and hit trouble, though, any repairs won’t be covered by your products’ warranties—which is why you’ll see plentiful warnings to use gasoline with no more than 10% ethanol. (You’ll need them; the EPA’s pump label is not prominent.) Turning a gas nozzle pink doesn’t make it a win-win on your end, but you won’t hear that from Growth Energy or other groups running similar campaigns.

Purchases that truly help cancer research are unassailable. But if you’re going to fuel up outdoor gear, your boat or anything else with an engine smaller than an car’s, steer clear of E15 fuel. Use a list like this one from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to “shop pink” every October. Or donate year-round, no strings attached.

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