Let’s face it, the commercial lawn mower is not one of the world’s most popular machines. Its noise and stink are beloved by no one. The arrival of the commercial-grade electric mower is a quiet revolution that will be welcomed by lawncare professionals, clients, park users, golfers and sleepers everywhere.
It’s still early days for this transition. The major manufacturers have yet to develop electric machines for the commercial market, but a few specialty firms are now offering zero-turn models in the 52”-74” range with as good or better specs than their gas/diesel counterparts. (Please note: The Colorado Clean Diesel Program can only fund the replacement of diesel mowers.)
The advantages of going electric extend beyond cleaner air and quieter operation, but let’s start with those. An electric mower produces zero emissions – that means no diesel particulates, which are a serious public health risk for the operator and anyone else in the vicinity, as well as lower greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Likewise, noise is cut roughly in half, which improves employee and customer satisfaction (and may also make it possible to start work earlier in the morning).
For those reasons alone, any lawncare company with a “green” image to maintain should seriously consider switching to electric equipment.
What’s more, an electric mower pencils out to be much cheaper in terms of total cost of ownership. While the purchase price is certainly higher – up to double that of a conventional model with similar features – this is more than offset by lower operating costs over the life of the machine. Electricity is much cheaper than gas or diesel, and with fewer moving parts (no spark plugs, oil filters, hydraulics, belts, clutches, etc.), you’ll save big on maintenance and reduced downtime. Manufacturers’ online calculators suggest that the extra upfront cost will pay for itself in about four years. (The economics are even more favorable when you factor in 45% funding from the Colorado Clean Diesel Program.)
However, run time and charging time are factors you’ll need to look hard at. Some electric models can run for a full 8 hours, but recharging a battery is not as quick as filling an empty tank. You’ll want to make sure the mower can make it through your typical work day and can be fully recharged by the next morning.
The lithium-ion batteries used in electric mowers are the same technology that’s used in electric cars, and are known to have a reasonably long life span. Still, that’s a bit of an extra unknown when switching to electric.
Note: Applicants seeking funding for any all-electric equipment must demonstrate that adequate electrical infrastructure to charge it exists or will exist on site. This infrastructure is also eligible for grant funding from the CCDP.
At least three companies specialize in commercial-grade electric mowers: Mean Green, Gravely and Greenworks. Leading the pack is the Mean Green EVO ZTR, with a 74” deck and the equivalent of 37 hp. Mean Green also offers a line of midsized riding, stand-on and walk-behind models. Gravely’s and Greenworks’ midsized ZTR’s have generally smaller batteries with shorter run times, but Gravely’s solution is an optional second battery that can be quickly swapped in.