Gas or Cordless Lawn Mowers: The Pros and Cons of Ditching Gas
This question seems to come up a lot around here: gas or electric? It seems like a polarizing question for a lot of folks, and I get the sense that your profession will determine which side of that question your answer falls on. For instance, for many pros, especially ones that aren’t currently hamstrung by noise and emissions ordinances, the answer seems pretty clear. Gas power rules. For most homeowners, especially ones that aren’t saddled with a lot that exceeds a couple acres, cordless power makes much more sense.
Well, as Spring is currently in the process of “sprunging” around here, we figure that some of you might find some value in revisiting the question, particularly as it pertains to lawn mowing. As things start to heat up outside, and the grass starts to leap out of the ground with great conviction and vigor, we’ll start to spend a lot more time outside trying to knock it back. At this point, it makes more sense to start considering the pros and cons of ditching gas power for cordless lawn mowers. So, let’s start by looking at the major points surrounding the question. Power, runtimes, noise and emission levels, convenience, and price will all factor into the discussion.
Power & Performance
Probably the first question that usually comes up in this sort of discussion revolves around power and performance. Can electric power compete with gas power? It’s a pretty tough question to address with one blanket answer. Are we talking about push mowers, stand-on riding mowers, lawn tractors, or zero turn mowers? All of these model types exist on both platforms. What are the demands of your particular application? You should consider these things before investing in a brand and a power type.
All that said, we can make at least one blanket statement on the subject. Cordless lawn mowers, like every other piece of battery-powered OPE, generate instant torque. When you press the “go” button, you have access to all of the available torque instantly, at least in theory. Many manufacturers will program their tools with soft start features, both as a safety precaution and to simulate gas power.
The thing to remember here is that, especially with your cordless lawn mowers, manufacturers have a lot of juggling to do when designing a tool. Sure, electric power can meet, or even exceed gas power. But, “fuel” efficiency goes out the window if a manufacturer allows you to attack a project with all of the available power all at once. So, a balancing act has to take place with battery power. In order to get runtimes to a place where cordless can begin to compete with gas, power has to get dialed back.
So, where does that leave us? Cordless options keep steadily improving, and for homeowner applications, will almost definitely suffice when it comes to power and performance. Pros will likely still default to using gas-powered equipment as a general rule, as heavy-duty power and performance remain predominant issues. Still, viable cordless lawn mowers are creeping into the professional realm. We suspect that it won’t be too long before this category becomes more of a wash.
Gas power has a clear advantage here, especially for the professional landscaper. While runtimes for cordless lawn mowers have improved a lot over the last couple years, a pro will probably only look to cordless for a supplement to gas power. Here’s why: with extra fuel on-hand, the gas-powered mower will run all day. For a guy who has 10 lawn accounts of various sizes to get through over the course of a day, runtime becomes very important. Sure, he might use cordless lawn equipment from time to time, as cordless does have its advantages, but he’ll probably rely on gas power barring any sort of extenuating circumstance.
Runtime becomes less of an issue if you’re mowing less often. The homeowner, for instance, might fire up the electric mower once a week. He might even mow a couple of acres, but there are cordless lawn mowers that can handle that kind of workload. In this sort of application, a shorter runtime becomes less problematic. Gas power will still have the clear advantage for professional applications, but as long as cordless power will suffice for the task at hand, the issue becomes less important.
Noise & Emission Levels
Here, we’re going to start to see cordless lawn mowers start to present some clear advantages. Do you have HOAs that have rules about noise levels? Are you in a state that takes a hard stance against emissions? Do you just prefer to mow before the temperature jumps up around 8 or 9 am? Cordless power will fit right into your wheelhouse.
Gas power, for all its power and runtime, still generates a lot of noise and exhaust. For lawn crews who like to get to work as early in the morning as possible, gas-powered mowers will present a problem, especially when mowing in communities with strict noise ordinances.
Cordless OPE will not suffer from these same issues. Because they run on “fuel” that doesn’t combust, emissions levels drop to zero. And, while there’s no such thing as a noiseless mower, the reduction in decibel levels is considerable. Early-risers who enjoy banging out their lawn work at the start of the day can probably avoid waking up the neighbors with cordless lawn mowers.
Plus, battery power presents an advantage when it comes to personal safety. Protecting our ears can tend to get relegated to the back of our thinking, if we even think about it all. Consider this: the typical gas-powered push mower will generate around 96 dB. Conversely, an electric mower will register somewhere around 70 dB. That might not sound like much until you consider that sound level measurement works logarithmically. As EGO tells us in a helpful article on sound levels, “an increase of 10 decibels means the sound is ten times louder. So a noise measurement of 80dB is ten times louder than a sound measured at 70 db!”
- Weight: cordless lawn mowers tend to weigh less than comparably specced gas mowers. That means easier loading and unloading should you work off of a truck. Plus, should you need to tip the mower over to get to the blade, you’ll wrestle around a lot less (be advised, before handling the blade, you’re going to want to disconnect the battery or the sparkplug. Nobody wants any surprises when it comes to the business end of a mower blade.)
- No mess: I’ve never heard anyone state that they love sloshing around gas or trying to mix fuel. Zero gas means zero fumes and zero mess from fuel spills.
- Less maintenance: With fewer moving parts, there’s less chance for breakdowns to occur. Not only is less downtime more productive and lucrative (from a business perspective), but maintenance is a huge annoyance for most of us. This also means that, for cordless lawn mowers, you won’t have to deal with winterization issues.
- Instant start-up: Which would you rather do to get to work, press a button or throw your back out yanking a string? This might seem like a trivial issue until you’ve tugged on that dopey string crank for the umpteenth time.
- Robo mowers: I have yet to see a gas powered robot mower. Meanwhile, there are quite a few cordless lawn mowers that operate similarly to the way your Roomba vacuums your rugs…or not.
When we get into price, things start to even out again, and there are few points to consider. Cordless lawn mowers will tend to cost more straight out of the gate. Take these two models, the EGO Power+ Self Propelled Mower and the Toro Personal Pace Recycler, for instance. Both mowers have comparable specs. They have similar cutting swaths, they can both bag or mulch, and they’re both self-propelled. The EGO model starts at $499 with a 7.5Ah battery and charger. The Toro model starts at $429.
So, we’re looking at about a $70 difference here between cordless lawn mowers and gas-powered lawn mowers. Of course, these push mowers retail for much less than the more expensive lawn tractors and zero turn mowers. The differences in price will probably be more considerable with the bigger-ticket items.
However, with cordless lawn mowers, you’re sort of paying for your fuel upfront with the battery purchase. Considering the improved uptime that comes with electric and the lack of fuel costs, the increased cost upfront might wind up negated over the life of the tool. There’s even the chance that you come out ahead with electric power.
So, like many things in life, we don’t necessarily have a hard-and-fast, definitive answer for you. Which mower will work best for you? It will all depend on your application and how much you’ll use your mower. The chances are good that the pro, in most cases, will still rely on gas power for its heavy-duty power, performance, and runtime. Pros working in noise and emissions restricted communities might run on cordless platforms, but for the most part, gas will probably continue to be the way to go for the foreseeable future.
On a consumer level, however, cordless lawn mowers present a new, and possibly better, option. The initial cost might be higher for electric, but the savings on fuel, the super reduction in noise and emissions, and the sheer convenience of cordlessness could outweigh the runtime and power of gas engines. In fact, unless you’re mowing multiple acres all at once, there’s a real good chance that cordless lawn mowers will improve your lawn care experience all the way around.