Landscaping with Electric Equipment – Battery-Power Comes into Its Own

Landscaping with electric equipment

One of America’s top universities thinks battery-power is better, and a California city turned it into a 6-month comparison test. The battery-powered landscaping equipment won.

One of America’s top universities thinks battery-power is better, and a California city turned it into a 6-month comparison test. The battery-powered landscaping equipment won. It’s even quieter now in the hallowed halls of Harvard. The university announced last year that it was switching over to battery-powered landscaping equipment, joining hybrid police cars and electric carts in making the college a quieter, cleaner, and more climate-friendly place.

The decision followed a pilot project where conventional leaf blowers, tree pruners, and grass trimmers were replaced by battery-powered versions. Workers found these commercial electric versions were every bit as effective as the traditional gasoline-powered equipment. The “tradeoff” was really all benefits: less noise and operating expense and no air pollution.

Harvard isn’t the only institution ditching its conventional landscaping equipment in exchange for battery-powered replacements, either.

First in the nation

Two years ago, the city of South Pasadena, CA, was named the first American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) Green Zone City in the country. All of its 13 properties are maintained with battery-powered mowers, trimmers, edgers, hedgers, and leaf blowers. It breaks down like this:

  • 21 acres of grass to mow
  • 15 acres of hardscapes
  • 1 acre of hedges
  • 7 miles of edging

There’s an interesting story behind this transition. AZGA demonstrated battery-powered landscaping equipment to the decision-makers, who couldn’t argue with the significant decrease in noise pollution. They were far from sold on dependability and performance, however. This is where the test came in.

Head to head competition

The city and a local landscaping equipment company contracted to provide equipment and services launched a six-month comparison test. A 60-inch gas-powered mower ran against a 60-inch battery-powered mower.

At the end of the test, the results showed there was only a 2% difference in performance. That was at the end of the test. Towards the start, it didn’t look like that battery-powered equipment was much of a match.

The company contracted to provide equipment was intrigued by this because they were confident that the battery-powered mower would hold its own against the gas-powered mower. So, they went out into the field – literally – to investigate.

What they discovered was that the battery-powered mower’s operator was being less aggressive with it. He thought he needed to slow down and treat it differently than the gas-powered mower. The performance figures became nearly identical as soon as the operator was advised to treated it no differently than the gas-powered mower.

Battery-power wins

It was the mowers that would decide this competition. When the test ended and it was proven that there was only a 2% difference in performance, the decision was made to replace all gas-powered landscaping equipment with electric versions.

No one argues that there’s an initial challenge. The city of South Pasadena discovered the cost to purchase battery-powered landscaping equipment ranged from 30% to 50% more than gas-powered models. The return on investment is what made this worthwhile.

  • The 60-inch battery-powered mowers paid for themselves in about nine months
  • The remaining battery-powered equipment paid for itself in about three to four months

Operating costs associated with gas and oil were eliminated completely. It turns out that the biggest obstacle had nothing to do with battery-powered landscaping equipment. It was convincing the members of the South Pasadena landscaping maintenance crew to overcome the perceived notion that they had to go easier on the new equipment.

Battery-powered landscaping equipment also offers models not easy to find in a gasoline-powered version. Consider the battery-powered wheelbarrow. There are models that look like the one you already own, but can move up to 265 pounds with power forward, reverse, and a handbrake. Other models can climb stairs and drive over heavy brush and logs.

There’s even an overbuilt industrial grade version that can be converted to everything from a rotary sweeper to a feed wagon. Check out the options here.

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