What does the future hold for battery-powered and electric equipment?

May 10, 2022 -  By
Illustration: Peter Krause and Chris Sotomayor

Illustration: Peter Krause and Chris Sotomayor

The fate of gas-powered landscape equipment hangs in the balance of the governing bodies of states and municipalities. In October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill to phase out the sale of new gas-powered lawn equipment in the state by 2024. Residents of Lexington, Mass., and Washington, D.C., voted to phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers within city limits. Lawmakers in Illinois and New York also introduced bills to phase out the operation and sale of gas-powered leaf blowers.

Meanwhile, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are going all-in with additions to handheld battery-powered equipment and mower lines. This focus on electric equipment goes beyond machines used for landscape maintenance — Bobcat debuted its T7X all-electric compact track loader at CES, a technology-focused trade show, in January to rave reviews. Case announced it plans to introduce the CX15 electric mini-excavator in 2023, and Volvo said it plans to release its ECR25 electric compact excavator this year.

Landscape Management sat down with equipment manufacturers, industry advocates and landscaping professionals to take a look at the future of electric equipment in the green industry.

Meanwhile …

It’s no secret that battery-powered equipment will play a big role in the future of the green industry. Patrick Ericson, owner of EH&P Green, a full-service maintenance company for primarily residential clientele in Chesterfield, N.H., started his business last year with an eye on the future.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the next five to 10 years, you wouldn’t be able to buy any gas-powered lawn care equipment,” he says, noting he doesn’t see gas-powered equipment going away entirely. “It might still be out there, but it is so expensive just because of all the new emissions regulations that they’ll come out with. I think there’s definitely a change coming, and my hope is that we’ve gotten ahead of it.”

Ericson says he saw a possibility to cut his emissions and serve clients willing to pay for battery-powered maintenance. EH&P Green uses a Mean Green 52-inch Vanquish stand-on mower and Ego handheld equipment and snowblower.

“We started with around 30 customers, and we ended the year at 45 accounts,” he says. “We’re hoping to double that this year. And we’re on track, too.”

Jeremy Berros

Jeremy Berros

What’s happening in the U.S. is quite familiar for Pellenc, a battery-powered equipment manufacturer founded in France. Jeremy Berros, business development director for Pellenc North America, says more regulations and the increased cost of gas have prompted more landscape operations to consider battery-powered solutions.

“We have seen this transition happening for the last five to 10 years, depending on the country in Europe,” he says.

Jack Easterly, product manager for Husqvarna, says one company around the Washington, D.C., area that preferred not to be named converted to around 50 550iBTX battery-powered backpack blowers to meet noise restrictions implemented in the area.

“We’ve seen customers thrilled to have a solution that is very close to their petrol performing products to use as a replacement in these restricted areas,” he says.

Next big thing

Many OEMs say battery-recharging setups will be a focus in the future as more landscape companies opt for electric equipment. At GIE+EXPO 2021, Stihl debuted a prototype cabinet in a standard trailer with multiple charging units for repowering equipment on the go. Steve Wilcox, Stihl’s manager of communications for battery equipment, says the company looks to boost performance, too.

Steve Wilcox

Steve Wilcox

“Our goal is lighter, more powerful, longer-lasting,” he says. “That’s what our customers demand. We have a battery solution that will be available later in the year that speaks to those guidelines: lighter, more power, longer lifespan.”

Berros says Pellenc’s new technology for batteries will focus on professional-grade equipment for the green industry.

“Why do landscapers have to deal with something that’s meant for residential use instead of professional use?” he says. “Charging stations are going to be a big thing also. When you have just one or a couple of batteries to charge at home, it is not the same as when you have 50, maybe 100 batteries to handle.”

Easterly says Husqvarna looks to exceed the performance of gas-powered equipment.

“The next big innovation that we look at — tool by tool — is reaching or exceeding gas-powered performance and also run times when you compare a battery’s runtime to a fuel tank,” he says.

Steve Wilcox with Stihl says pros can look for new equipment introductions this year that are lighter with more power. (Photo: Stihl)

Steve Wilcox with Stihl says pros can look for new equipment introductions this year that are lighter with more power. (Photo: Stihl)

Todd Zimmerman, vice president of product development for Positec USA, which manufacturers Worx battery-powered equipment, says contractors may need to re-think how they approach property management.

“With gas product crews work from the truck out to the furthest point,” he says. “With cordless crews might have to start at the furthest point from the truck and work their way back to minimize the time needed for battery replacements.”

John Powers, director of product management for Echo, says the challenge the battery-powered manufacturers face with recharging setups is there’s no one solution for each end-user.

“I don’t think anybody knows what the perfect solution is going to be,” he says. “There’s a large variety of usage situations out there. The needs of a crew that is in one location, for example on a resort, is completely different from somebody that is servicing residential yards and is doing 50 plus yards per day. They’re going to need different charging solutions.”

John Powers

John Powers

Another challenge, Powers says, is the different truck and trailer setups that lawn care operators deploy — from pickup trucks with open trailers to large trucks with enclosed trailers — which makes offering one recharging solution for the industry problematic.

“The big two challenges right now — and they’re related to each other — are charging and transportation,” he says, noting he expects solutions to focus on the power available while the tool is in use.

Big plans for big equipment

“Other technologies being developed will have a lower environmental impact, lower cost of operation and provide performance and efficiency improvements,” says Justin Odegaard, acceleration manager for Bobcat. “As the future becomes the present, electric won’t be the only means to achieve those same things.”

Odegaard says the Bobcat’s T7X all-electric compact track loader offers more power and more efficient equipment on the job site, along with operating costs approximately 90 percent lower than a diesel/hydraulic machine.

“By going to all-electric and eliminating the hydraulics, there’s a big boost in efficiency, which allows us to run longer,” he adds, saying he doesn’t see standard compact equipment going away, noting, “You can still get your machine the way that you want it.”

Volvo said contractors could save up to 35 percent in maintenance with its electric compact excavator. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo said contractors could save up to 35 percent in maintenance with its electric compact excavator. (Photo: Volvo)

Lars Arnold, electromobility product manager for Volvo Construction Equipment, estimates that users of the company’s electric excavator could see 35 percent savings in maintenance costs compared to diesel excavators.
Arnold says the company plans to introduce two more electric compact excavator models this year. Volvo also plans to develop an app for fleet and machine management.

“I’d say in five to 10 years, all new Volvo compact excavator and wheel loader models will likely have an electric solution,” he says. “We are also looking into the electrification of other machine types. Electrifying larger machines remains a challenge, but it’s one we’re actively seeking solutions to. Full-sized models will likely be a mix of diesel, hybrid and electric by the end of this decade.”

Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

1 Comment on "What does the future hold for battery-powered and electric equipment?"

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  1. Jerry leary says:

    I would expect things to be
    Further down the road than they are.