5 years ago Ryobi released their first battery-powered riding mower, the RM480E. It featured a lead-acid battery and a 38-inch stamped steel deck. That was followed by a Ryobi 48-inch zero turn mower and, eventually, the 54-inch brushless ZT with a fabricated deck. So what’s the big news for today? Ryobi has brought three new lithium-ion battery-powered zero-turn riding lawn mowers powered by a brand new 80V lithium-ion suitcase-style battery and driven via joystick!
I-Drive Joystick Replaces Lap Bars or Steering Wheel
Starting at the top, Ryobi replaces the lap bars and steering wheel with an iDrive joystick. Ryobi spent more than a year developing this joystick that lets their mowers maneuver quickly and easily.
When we first gave the iDrive joystick a try, we took to it very quickly. We spent quite a while on these mowers, and the iDrive joystick system Ryobi developed got easier and easier to use. When you think about it, in today’s high-tech video game-driven marketplace, a joystick makes more sense than lap bars for the new generation of folks looking to keep their lawns mowed.
We found that we could smoothly execute maneuvers through and around plastic cones, drive in a perfectly straight line, and even execute 360-degree turns in place. As I mentioned, it only got easier with time.
Three Ryobi 80V Zero Turn Mowers, Three Deck Sizes
Ryobi added not one, but three 80V joystick-controlled Zero Turn Mowers. These include mowers with 30-, 42-, and 54-inch deck sizes. Of those, the 30-inch raised the most eyebrows. That mower, however, neatly fits within a standard gate and lets you access places no other zero-turn can reach—even with an integrated bagging system!
Familiar Riding Mower Features
While Ryobi shook things up by adding a joystick to its 80V zero-turn mowers, it kept everything else very familiar. You still pull a red knob to activate the cutting blades. You also start the mower by turning a key (which you can remove for added security).
Adjust the deck height using the side lever. This pulls up manually to move the deck between 1.5 and 4.5 inches of cutting height. LED headlights turn on with a button located just below the LCD panel. They even added a USB port for recharging your smartphone as you mow. Of course, the most powerful feature of a joystick lawn mower is that it frees up your hands…so Ryobi added a couple of cup holders (which we find almost useless on lap bar models.)
Ryobi 80V Suitcase Battery Packs
In the beginning we indicated these work off 80V batteries. The Ryobi 80V batteries look like small suitcases and each mower uses more than one. Each 80V battery pack contains 100 individual battery cells. On top, an LCD screen near the handle tells you how much of the battery charge remains in the 80V pack (as a percentage).
Ryobi’s 42-inch and 54-inch joystick-controlled zero-turn mowers support up to three 80V batteries as well as four 40V auxiliary batteries. The 30-inch mower operates with a maximum of two 80V batteries and has two slots for adding 40V auxiliary batteries.
Ryobi 80V Lithium-ion Battery Packs and 12Ah 40V Batteries Specs
Each Ryobi 80V Lithium-ion battery pack operates at 72V (nominal) volts at 10Ah (amp-hours). That gives it a capacity of 720 Wh (watt-hours). Each 12Ah 40V battery pack yields 432 Wh once you factor in the 36V nominal voltage.
That means you can add a full complement of batteries to the Z42Li or the Z54Li zero-turn mower and have 3,888 Wh at your disposal!
- 3 x 80V/720Wh = 2160 Wh
- 4 x 40V/432Wh = 1728 Wh
Ryobi Took Tesla’s Lead with a Wall-Mountable 80V Rapid Charger
Older Ryobi zero turn and lawn tractor-style mowers used lead-acid batteries. These took hours and hours to recharge. The new 30-, 42-, and 54-inch joystick-controlled zero-turn mowers can charge in just 2, 3, and 4 hours respectively. That’s super quick. It even charges both the 80V batteries and the 40V batteries at the same time. The 120V external fast charger can mount on your garage or shed wall, making it super-convenient to plug in your mower when you’re done for the day.
One thing we noted was that the fast charger presents the quickest way we’ve seen to recharge a complement of 40V batteries for your other handheld power tools.
No, Ryobi 80V Riding Mowers Do Not Operate at 40V
Since the Ryobi 80V joystick zero-turn riding mowers integrate both 40V and 80V batteries, how do they work exactly? The mowers prioritize the 80V packs for operation—in fact, they require the 80V packs to run. They can, however, use any additional 40V packs you give them to add more runtime.
What Ryobi did that impressed us, even more, was that you don’t need to add 40V batteries in pairs. Even a single 40V battery can add runtime to the mower. Ryobi uses electronics to “step up” their 40V packs to 80 volts and deliver the required voltage. Add even one 40V battery, and you’ve extended your runtime.
Using the LCD Control Panel
The control system on these mowers features an LCD screen. This lets you independently configure Low, Medium, and High speeds for both the drive system and the cutting blades. The screen constantly displays the remaining runtime and battery life. You also get drive and brake status.
As we and other members of the media rode the Ryobi 80V joystick-driven zero-turn mowers, it was hard to ignore the air-ride seat suspension. Both the 42-inch and 54-inch models include it. Once I dialed it in, it did a great job smoothing out bumps and dips as I drive over terrain that wasn’t quite flat. You adjust for weight using the front-mounted dial. This feature grew more significant as I weighed significantly less than the gentleman testing the mower before I sat down!
Fabricated and Stamped Steel Decks
Ryobi continues to use a fabricated steel deck on their current-flagship 54-inch zero-turn joystick-driven lawn mower. Both the 30-inch and 42-inch models continue to use stamped steel decks.
On the 54-inch mower, you also get cross-cut blades very similar to what you find on the Ryobi 40V Crosscut lawnmower. That means the 54-inch model comes with 6 blades. They deliver a better quality cut with finer clippings.
Which Ryobi 80V Joystick Riding Mower Should You Get?
Ryobi Z30Li 30-inch Riding Mower
When looking at all three models, we can see some pretty clear reasons for getting each. For example, the Ryobi Z30Li 30-inch mower fits through most gates and presents a great solution for delivering a rider that fits where most zero turns can’t. Ryobi even designed the bagging system to fit completely within the width of the body so it doesn’t expand the footprint. The side-discharge grass chute is made from rubber and won’t damage your shed or gates when you get too close. At $4,000, this mower should provide a solid solution for anyone trying to get a battery-powered zero-turn mower that can tackle properties up to an acre in size.
Ryobi Z42Li 42-inch Riding Mower
Stepping up to the 42-inch Ryobi Z42Li, you get a great mid-tier product with all of the same great controls and features of the 54-inch but with a stamped deck and reduced deck size. The $5,000 retail price gives you double the mowing range—up to 2 acres. You also get an additional 80V battery and two more 40V battery ports for extending your runtime.
Ryobi Z54Li 54-inch Riding Mower
Finally, the $6,000 flagship Z54Li brings a 54-inch fabricated deck that, combined with the trio of 80V batteries nets you up to 4-acres of grass-cutting.
Ryobi 80V HP Electric ZT Riding Mowers and Bagging Options
Ryobi intends to offer bagging systems when they release these mowers. They included a “Bagger Boost” system that works with both the 80V HP 30″ Lithium Electric Zero Turn Riding Mower and the 80V HP 42″ Lithium Electric Zero Turn Riding Mower:
- 30-inch ZTR Bagger Boost Model Number: ACRM018
- 42-inch ZTR Bagger Boost Model Number: ACRM026
Press the Bagger Boost button and the mower sends a powerful gust of 700 CFM into the bagger chute. Ryobi said the feature clears out clogs and clumps of grass when bagging—a common issue when bagging, particularly with damp grass.
Ryobi will sell their Bagger Boost baggers separately as an accessory (online only). They also plan to offer bagging options without Bagger Boost. We have yet to see precise pricing but we imagine they will appear once these mowers launch on Home Depot online in the Spring of 2022.
Pricing and Final Thoughts on the Ryobi 80V ZT Lawn Mowers
It’s hard not to get a little worked upon over these mowers—not because we haven’t seen anything like this before, but because manufacturers like Ryobi are starting to drive the industry forward in a new direction. A joystick steering wheel? Air ride seat suspension? Between innovative new features and familiar features we’ve come to expect from gas products, manufacturers are really starting to produce products that require a very small learning curve and tons of benefits to consumers looking to make the transition into battery-powered products.
As for how much they cost, Ryobi plans to sell the Z30Li, Z42Li, and Z54Li at $4000, $5000, and $6000 respectively. All three mowers should be available in the Spring of 2022. While not inexpensive, you’re getting a lot of mower and battery capacity for the price. We look forward to doing even more performance testing on these mowers when we get them in-house later this year.
Shared Specs for all Ryobi 80V Zero-turn Riding Mowers
- LCD control screen
- Low/Med/High blade speed
- Low/Med/High drive speed
- Remaining battery and cut time
- iDrive joystick drive control
- External wall-mountable fast charger
- Plugs into rear of mower
- Chargers both 80v and 40v simultaneously
- Power: 80V battery pack w/LCD charge level display
- 40V battery compatibility
- Arm rests
- USB charging port
- Cup holders
- Golf cart style parking brake
- 1.5″ to 4.5″ deck height
- LED headlights
- Keyed start
Ryobi Z54Li 80V Zero-turn Riding Mower Specs
- 54-inch fabricated steel deck
- Max cut area: 4-acres
- Batteries: 3 x 80V Lithium-ion
- Spare 40V battery ports: 4
- Charge time (w/rapid charger): 4 hours
- Price: $6,000
Ryobi Z42Li 80V Zero-turn Riding Mower Specs
- 42-inch stamped steel deck
- Max cut area: 2-acres
- Batteries: 3 x 80V Lithium-ion
- Spare 40V battery ports: 4
- Charge time (w/rapid charger): 3 hours
- Price: $5,000
Ryobi Z30Li 80V Zero-turn Riding Mower Specs
- 30-inch stamped steel deck
- Max cut area: 1-acre
- Batteries: 2 x 80V Lithium-ion
- Spare 40V battery ports: 2
- Charge time (w/rapid charger): 2 hours
- Price: $4,000