OPEI: Consumers confused about fuel product offerings

Nearly two in five Americans (37 percent, up from 33 percent in 2019) 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, according to the results of a new study commissioned by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) and conducted online among 3,000 U.S. adults by The Harris Poll. Fueling incorrectly can void manufacturer’s warranties and damage equipment.

The 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 misfuel. The study found that more than one in five outdoor power equipment owners are currently misfueling and one quarter have done so in the past.

This fueling confusion can lead to potentially costly repairs, says the OPEI’s President and CEO, Kris Kiser.

“The EPA has stated it’s illegal to use any gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol in any small engine product, like a lawn mower, string trimmer, leaf blower, generator or UTV,” Kiser said. “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 added that it’s important for consumers to select the right fuel for their outdoor power equipment as misfueling can invalidate a manufacturer’s warranty.

The study found that nearly two in five Americans (37 percent, up from 33 percent in 2019, 31 percent in 2017 and 2016, and 30 percent 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 percent, down from 58 percent in 2019) say they either don’t pay attention to (25 percent) or are unsure of (27 percent) the type of fuel they use in their outdoor power equipment.
  • Twenty percent of equipment owners admit they currently use fuel in their equipment with higher than recommended ethanol (E15/E30/E50/E85), up from 12 percent in 2019, 11 percent in 2018, 12 percent in 2017, 8 percent in 2016, and 7 percent in 2015.
  • A quarter (25 percent) of equipment owners admit they have used fuel higher than E10 when fueling their outdoor power equipment in the past.
  • Just over 1 in 10 equipment owners (11 percent, up from 6 percent in 2019), have used an E15 or higher fuel in an engine not designed for it.

 Some of the problem boils down to assumptions. More than 3 in 5 Americans (64 percent) 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 Americans (65 percent) 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 for Octane 88, which is really 15% ethanol or E15, and it’s no wonder these numbers are going up,” said 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.”

Other key findings:

  • More than 3 in 5 Americans (62 percent) say they would purchase 88 Octane fuel if they were fueling outdoor power equipment and it was available at a cheaper price than other unleaded/regular fuels.
  • Only about 1 in 5 Americans (22 percent, up from 15 percent in 2019) know that 88 Octane fuel has more ethanol in it than 87 Octane fuel, suggesting a majority could be carelessly using 88 Octane not realizing the detrimental impacts it could have on their outdoor power equipment.
  • More than half of Americans (54 percent) believe the current voluntary warning label put out by the EPA for gas stations that sell fuels higher than E10 is inadequate to inform consumers about E15 fuel being illegal to use in outdoor power equipment, and should be larger, clearer, and mandatory.
  • A majority of Americans (71 percent, up from 66 percent in 2018 and 2019) feel ethanol-free gas should be more widely available at gas pumps.
  • When it comes to battery-powered outdoor power equipment, over 4 in 5 consumers owning this equipment (84%) say they are likely to charge the battery following the instructions from the owner’s manual.
  • But, more than three quarters (78 percent) are likely to charge the battery overnight, more than 3 in 5 (63 percent) are likely to charge the battery for more than 24 hours, and over half (59 percent) 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 4 in 5  (79 percent) 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 percent) saying it is very important.
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