The sound of spring arriving might be a little quieter this year. Sure, gasoline-powered lawnmowers still constitute the lion’s share of the market, but the number of battery-powered electric walk-behind models continues to rise. We found 30 such models in 2014, which is a 30 percent increase from 2012. Electric options even are starting to find a foothold in the riding-lawnmower segment, which isn’t a surprise given the continued development in battery technology.
Kris Kiser, who is the president and CEO of industry trade association Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), says battery-powered lawnmowers likely will move toward more standardization in the next 3 years as manufacturers provide devices that can recharge batteries more quickly and introduce batteries that are capable of being transferred to other outdoor power equipment.
Meanwhile, manufacturers in 2014 provide more storage options for their lawnmowers, and OPEI is exploring the development of standards to address the rising number of robotic lawnmowers.
CHARGED UP. Although the experts with whom we spoke agree that gasoline-powered lawnmowers still provide more torque, electric lawnmowers are receiving a power boost.
In 2012, we found eight walk-behind electric lawnmowers that boasted 36-volt batteries, which was notable at the time, because most cordless electric lawnmowers had 24-volt batteries. Although 24-volt lawnmowers still exist in 2014, increased power has become more common—we found 11 models that have 36-volt batteries and another seven that have 40-volt batteries. High-powered electric lawnmowers start at $300, which is the same as they cost 2 years ago.
According to Paul Tukey, who is the founder of SafeLawns, which promotes natural lawn care and grounds maintenance, the improved battery power means that larger lawns can be mowed on a single charge. Jose Castellanos of Mowers Direct, which is an online lawnmower dealership that sells all types of lawnmowers, says a yard that’s larger than one-quarter of an acre will test the running time of a battery-powered model. However, Tukey argues that a lawn that’s one-half of an acre to three-quarters of an acre can be tackled, as long as it’s cut weekly so the grass doesn’t become too long or thick.
Chervon will take battery power to the next level in spring 2014, when it unveils its Ego walk-behind lawnmower ($499), which will have a 56-volt lithium-ion battery. Chervon spokesperson Joe Turoff tells us that the increased battery power makes the electric model more comparable with a gasoline-powered lawnmower in terms of its capability to cut, mulch and throw grass into an attached bag. However, when we asked what would be a comparable gasoline-powered lawnmower in terms of engine size or trimming capability, he couldn’t provide an example.
Castellanos hasn’t tried the Ego lawnmower, but he says he’s skeptical that higher voltage makes battery-powered lawnmowers more powerful. However, he says he expects that a 56-volt battery will run longer on a single charge than a 36-volt or a 40-volt battery does.
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Also, more electric lawnmowers use a lithium-ion battery. Whereas lead-acid batteries take up to 15 hours to charge fully, lithium-ion batteries typically take less than 4 hours. Stihl now leads the industry with a $90 charger that can rejuice a lithium-ion battery in 70 minutes. Most chargers cost $20–$60.
SPACE SAVERS. In addition to having the industry’s highest-voltage battery, Chervon’s Ego lawnmower also has a handlebar that folds down and into the deck, to help it to stand on its rear wheels so it takes up less floor space in your garage or outdoor shed. Dealers say electric models that have lithium-ion batteries are good candidates for storing on end, because they weigh as much as 75 pounds less than do models that have lead-acid batteries.
Commercial gasoline-powered lawnmowers that are storable on their end have been around, but Castellanos tells us that those models are fraught with problems that stem from leakage of gasoline and other fluids from inside of the engine. As a result, he says, Mowers Direct had a drop in sales of such lawnmowers after leakage problems occurred during the first offseason.