Above, Solar Champion Dana Ward uses his electric lawn mower (charged by his home's solar array) in his front yard.
This month's column is written by Chuck Hayward, EV Infrastructure Designer & Analyst.
The beautiful fall foliage is sadly just about done throughout New England which means there are leaves everywhere. While leaving leaves on the ground provides many benefits for insects, other wildlife, and your lawn, you may still want to remove them from your driveway or use them as mulch for your garden beds. But why are we talking about this in the EV Corner?
Electric leaf blowers are more than capable of clearing leaves, pine needles, and pinecones. Well, electric vehicles can obviously do a lot to reduce emissions, but the impact of switching your yard tools to electric versions is arguably even bigger. Many yard tools are two-stroke engines, which are particularly terrible for emissions. In one test by Edmunds, just 30 minutes of using a two-stroke leaf blower created the same emissions as would be created by driving a 2011 F150 Raptor almost 4,000 miles! Think about that. If you spend 30 minutes per week using a two-stroke leaf blower, you’d create the same emissions you would by spending your week driving from Maine to San Diego and then up the entire California coast in a 12-year-old high-performance pick-up truck.
While switching that truck to an electric version would start at about $50,000, high-quality battery-powered leaf blowers start around $100. And depending on where you live, you might even be able to borrow one or get purchase rebates. For example, both Portland and South Portland, Maine have electric tool libraries. And in Cape Elizabeth, co-founder Phil Coupe's teenage sons even started their own solar-powered electric lawn care business.
Credit: City of South Portland South Portland residents can borrow yard tools for one week just by using their normal library card. In 5 months, the library has provided over 230 rentals of mowers, leaf blowers, and string trimmers. South Portland also had a rebate program for residents to purchase their own electric lawn tools; this program was so popular that all the funding was awarded in less than a year. That program helped residents purchase 134 mowers, 35 leaf blowers, and 37 string trimmers – all of them 100% electric and zero emissions. (Thanks to Susan Parmalee and Cashel Stewart from South Portland’s Sustainability Office for the usage information.)
Emissions reduction isn’t the only benefit that electric tools offer.
Pretty much any tool that runs on gas now has an equally capable electric version. Chainsaws, snowblowers, log-splitters, pressure washers, and even commercial mowers and backpack blowers. Many brands offer a full line of tools designed to all use the same batteries, reducing the overall cost; the same battery that powers your mower all summer can be swapped to power your snowblower in the winter.
Just some of the options you can get with the same Greenworks battery.
And when the work is done, you can use those same batteries for the electric mini-bike! Credit: Greenworks
Gas tools often bog down and stall when the work gets hard. But due to the way electric motors work, electric tools actually get more torque at low RPMs – precisely when they need it most. So that tall grass that slows down mowers and causes gas engines to stall would instead cause an electric mower’s torque to increase.
Electric tools are often much quieter than their gas counterparts, sometimes almost silent. That means happier neighbors, and less risk of damaging the operator’s hearing.
This Ryobi riding mower will cut up to 2 acres and charges from a regular outlet in 2-3 hours. Electric tools require almost no maintenance other than charging the batteries. That means no more oil changes and no more tune-ups, which can save hundreds of dollars a year. It also means no more gas spills to clean up, no trips to the gas station when you run out in the middle of cutting the lawn, no more smells in your car when you transport a can of gas in the back, and no draining the gas in the off-season.
Overall, electric lawn tools provide many of the same benefits as electric vehicles. And just like EVs, they are generally easier and more enjoyable to operate than the gas-powered alternatives.