Along with what you can charge, ask yourself what you can save. Alternative-fueled sweepers generally have savings in better fuel economy and lower emissions, Bormann says. But will you be able to save on maintenance costs? And are you or your maintenance crew comfortable with the slightly different maintenance tasks these sweepers require? For example, CNG tanks will need to be inspected and routinely replaced when they expire. Will your maintenance crew be diligent in checking and replacing tanks?
Johnson suggests asking the sweeper manufacturer to explain and train you on proper alternative fuel engine maintenance and tank maintenance. Another source for proper maintenance can be the propane or CNG fuel suppliers and engine suppliers.
The type of unit you are looking to purchase is also a consideration. Are you sweeping roads or parking lots? Do you need a unit that travels at highway speeds or city speed limits, Bormann says. Typically, alternative-fueled sweepers are larger sweeping units, Johnson says. Most parking lot sweepers won't take the large street sweepers to do a small parking lot job. However, if you are a parking lot sweeper, an alternative-fueled street sweeper might help you bring in a new type of customer if the demand is there, Johnson adds.
Massey suggests contractors look at the fuel capacity as well - not just how much fuel it can carry, but is the fuel equivalent to the amount of fuel a diesel sweeper runs? Along with that, is the engine at least equal to the power you would get with a diesel engine?
Take a close look at the sweeper. Massey says alternative-fueled sweeper engines run at a higher temperature than diesel engines so contractors should make sure key sweeper components are properly insulated. Johnson says contractors should make sure they are not sacrificing capability or maneuverability when purchasing an alternative-fueled sweeper.
And finally, will the sweeper have a resale value. "Just because you thought the sweeper was great, there may not be an after market for it," Giles points out.
All these questions boil down to one overall consideration: Does alternative fuel fit into your overall company plan? Johnson encourages contractors to do their homework and investigate their market and their equipment options before making a purchasing decision.
Allianz Introduces New Electric Hybrid
Allianz Sweeper Company recently introduced its new electric hybrid sweeper, which the company built from the ground up, says Allianz National Sales Manager Chad Bormann. The prototype originally launched in September 2009. Currently, Bormann says the city of New York is testing the sweeper. The sweeper features a 200-hp diesel engine used to drive the hydraulic systems on the sweeping components and electric wheel motors used to propel the sweeper. The electric wheel motors are powered by a battery pack system which is charged through a generator on the unit. The battery pack recharges itself while the sweeper is in use, he says. Bormann says Allianz chose to create this diesel/electric hybrid sweeper for two reasons. First, the sweeper engine can be run at a lower rpm and therefore consume less fuel. Second, because it runs on diesel rather than propane or CNG the sweeper can be refueled at any standard diesel station.