Advancements over the past decade in lithium-ion battery technology have allowed electric lawn care equipment to become a practical and cost-effective alternative to gas/diesel-powered lawn care equipment. There’s also heightened urgency to reduce the use of fossil fuels and their associated GHG emissions.
Yet, despite of these technological advancements and the millions of gallons of fossil fuel consumed annually by lawn care equipment, only a fraction of the commercial lawn mowers being used in Vermont are electric. Specifically, there is no public school district and only one Vermont college/university (UVM), one municipality (Burlington), the Burlington Airport, and one state agency (the Vermont Department of Forestry, Parks, and Recreation) using a commercial electric lawn mower as of July 2022. Within the private and non-profit sectors, there are only ten lawn care contractors, a few homeowner associations, and Shelburne Farms who are using commercial electric mowers.
Although there are thousands of commercial electric lawn mowers operating throughout the United States, there’s probably only about thirty currently operating in Vermont. This means that many Vermonters are still unfamiliar with this technology. This barrier will be overcome simply as more electric mowers are operating around the state.
Resistance to change and bias against E-lawn mowers:
Although many Vermont residents, businesses, institutions, municipalities, and the state government agencies/departments have environmental policy goals that support the transition to electric lawn mowers, many equipment operators assume that electric mowers won’t perform as well as conventional mowers and resist this transition. The reason include:
This resistance can be overcome by obtaining independent reviews of the equipment being considered and through equipment “demos” attended by both the operators and upper management personnel. And since advancements/improvements are continually being made in both the performance, options and run-time of electric lawn care equipment, it’s critical that the most recent models are being reviewed and demoed.
Inaccurate and/or negative performance reviews:
Since there are so few commercial electric lawn mowers operating in Vermont, there’s potential for a few negative reviews to have an outsized impact on the general perception of this technology. Such negative reviews could be based on the performance of older models and/or based on rumor or hearsay, rather than on actual experience.
This barrier can be overcome by obtaining performance evaluations from a variety of sources and based on the most recent models being considered, and scheduling equipment demos of the most advanced/newest models. The Mow Electric Campaign is also compiling a collection of “Commercial E-Mower User Experience Profiles” to provide answers to the most common questions and concerns about E-mowers, including: run-times; cut-quality/performance; durability, and; operating cost savings.
Insufficient operating cost data for conventional mowers to calculate the expected “life-cycle” cost savings of E-mowers:
E-mowers offer substantial savings in life-cycle operating costs compared to gas-powered equipment due to:
However, it’s not uncommon that hourly fuel consumption rates and fuel costs for individual mowers are not tracked. And in many cases, service and repair costs (including parts and labor) for individual mowers are also not maintained.
The lack of fuel cost data could be addressed by simply calculating the fuel consumption and costs for a conventional mower for specified time period (e.g. a week or month). This fuel consumption data could be calculated tracking the fuel use of a mower already in use and the fuel costs, or using average fuel consumption estimates (e.g. 1 gal/hour @ $4.50 per gallon). This data can then be used to estimate annual fuel consumption compared to the expected electricity consumption of an electric mower for the same number of operating hours (e.g. approximately 2.8 kW per operating hour @ $.16/kWh).
Higher purchase price:
Despite of incentives being offered by all seventeen Vermont electric utility companies, E-mowers still cost more than conventional mowers. While these higher prices create a significant barrier, there are many ways that this barrier can be overcome, including:
The existing 6 to 8+ hour run-time of commercial electric mowers:
While the maximum run-time provided by the current generation of commercial electric mowers of around 6 to 8+ hours is typically adequate in situations where employees work a standard 8 hour day (e.g. municipal and state grounds/public works departments, schools, colleges, universities, etc.), this may not be sufficient run-time for contractors whose employees operate their mowers for more than 7 to 8 hours a day.
This technical barrier will disappear as run-time increases, and more manufacturers incorporate swappable batteries and fast chargers.