Poll finds outdoor power equipment mis-fueling increasing

Americans are increasingly unsure about how to properly fuel outdoor power equipment and other non-road engine products like boats, snowmobiles and generators, and mis-fueling is occurring at increasing rates, says a new, nationwide, online research study of over 2,000 adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

According to the research, an ever-increasing number of outdoor power equipment owners are using the wrong type of fuel in their products. In 2018, 11% reported using E15, E30, E50, or E85 to fuel their equipment, up from 7% in 2015.

Manufacturers of outdoor power equipment have warned consumers that most products are designed and warranted to run on E10 (fuel with 10% ethanol) or less. It’s also illegal to use fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in any outdoor power equipment according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA mandates specific certification fuels.

“Higher blended fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol have been shown to damage the equipment. Mid-level ethanol fuels are known to phase separate further endangering equipment,” explains Kris Kiser, President and CEO of OPEI, an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. If damaged, consumers may have to pay for costly repairs or replace equipment.

Kiser continues, “What goes in your car or truck may not be safe to put in your lawn mower, and consumers are not paying attention and making unintended mistakes. Yet pump labeling and consumer education are inadequate. As ethanol continues to be subsidized, more stations sell it. We’re concerned about consumer safety and choice.”

Researchers also found that roughly two thirds of Americans (66%) believe ethanol-free gas should be more widely available at gasoline filling stations.

Americans mistakenly believe that higher ethanol blends are safe for any engine.

The study found that Americans are more likely now than in years past to believe higher ethanol blends of gasoline are safe for any gasoline (i.e., non-diesel) engine (38% in 2018 vs. 31% in 2017, 31% in 2016, and 30% in 2015).

“We believe this lack of knowledge is due to consumers blindly trusting that gas stations will only sell fuel that is safe. EPA must do more to educate fuel users,” says Kiser, citing that the poll found that nearly two thirds of Americans (65%) assume that any gas sold at the gas station is safe for all cars, as well as boats, mowers, chain saws, snowmobiles, generators and other engine products.

Other findings include:

  • Only 1 in 5 (20%, down from 25% in 2017) say they notice the ethanol content at a gas pump, with more saying they notice advertisements for specials inside (24%).
  • Just over 2 in 5 (41%) admit they do not check the fuel pump for any warning labels when fueling their car. More than one third (36%) do not always read the labels on the fuel pumps.
  • One in five Americans (20%) think it is legal to put gasoline with an ethanol content higher than 10 percent into engines. This jumps to 30% among men.
  • Among the 63% of Americans who own outdoor power equipment, less than half (43%) say they pay attention to the type of fuel they use.
  • The EPA issued a small voluntary label for gas stations to post if they sell fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol. When asked about the label, more than 3 in 5 Americans (63%) feel it is inadequate to inform consumers about E15 fuel being illegal to use in outdoor power equipment.
  • More than half of Americans (51%) fill up their portable gas tank with the same fuel used to fill their vehicle.
  • Roughly two thirds (66%) of Americans admit they will use the least expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible.
  • More than one third of outdoor power equipment owners (35%) may be using stale fuel in their equipment as they admit to not running the tank dry or not draining the fuel out before storing it.

OPEI has conducted annual research with Harris Poll since 2015. In 2013, OPEI launched a campaign, Look Before You Pump, to help educate consumers on proper fueling of outdoor power equipment. For information on proper fueling, go to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com.