I had a conversation the other day with someone who wants to buy an electric car. He shared with me what he’s learned about the range of these cars now. The best of them offer 400 miles or more on a charge, assuming flat roads and good weather. That’s not horrible — from where I live in the north suburbs of Indianapolis, I could drive to the Loop in Chicago and back on one charge with about 60 miles of charge left over. If I needed a charge along the way, there are four Tesla Supercharger stations between here and there (including the one across the street from my subdivision). In 15 minutes, a supercharger gives you 200 miles of driving.
But most electric cars, especially those with prices well below six figures, offer between 200 and 300 miles on a full charge. A handful offer less than 200 miles. Also, many of them don’t use Tesla’s charging port, so you’re far less likely to be able to charge them while on the road. One would serve well enough if you never strayed far from your city and charged the car at home every night. But you’d need to own or rent a gas-powered car for trips.
Thanks to middling range, time to recharge, multiple charge-port standards, and an insufficient network of charging stations, electric cars aren’t quite ready to replace cars with internal combustion engines.
But battery-powered yard-care equipment is ready to replace gasoline-powered counterparts for the average homeowner. My gas lawn mower died a few weeks ago and I didn’t hesitate to replace it with a battery electric mower. I bought this one, the entry-level Kobalt mower at Lowe’s, a big-box home improvement store here in the US. Kobalt is a Lowe’s house brand.
I have a small yard that I can mow in about 15 minutes. So far, I can mow it three times on one charge. The battery is easy to remove and carry, and charges overnight on household current.
I love how much quieter this mower is over any gas mower I ever owned. I also love that it requires so much less maintenance. With my gas mowers, I had two annual rituals: at the beginning of mowing season, change the oil, air filter, and fuel filter; at the end, run the mower until it is out of gas. With a battery mower, all of that maintenance goes away. The only maintenance they have in common is that the blade must be sharpened or replaced periodically.
There are a few downsides to electric yard equipment, though. First, batteries eventually die, and they’re relatively expensive to replace. For the Kobalt system, a new battery sets you back up to $200, almost 60 percent of what it costs to replace the mower, which comes with a battery. Conventional wisdom is that a mower battery lasts three to five years. For my aging Black & Decker battery weed trimmer, a new battery costs more than $100. A comparable new trimmer costs about $150 and comes with a battery. My battery has lasted more than 10 years, though!
The other downside is that some battery yard equipment is considerably more expensive to buy than gas equipment. The difference is most acute in riding mowers. Battery riding mowers start at $5,000, while gas riding mowers start at $2,500. The difference isn’t as great in push mowers — a gas mower equipped similarly to my $350 battery mower starts at around $275. On the other hand, among handheld yard tools, battery has supplanted gas except for heavy-duty models. When I bought my battery trimmer, it cost more than its gas equivalent. Today the least expensive gas trimmer I can find costs $200 and it’s meant for large yards and heavy use. A basic battery trimmer starts at around $60 and would work fine in my small yard.
Each manufacturer of battery yard equipment lets their batteries interchange among their various tools. When my battery-powered Black & Decker trimmer dies, I’ll probably replace it with a 40-volt Kobalt trimmer and share batteries with the mower.
This brings up the last downside — the potential for companies to stop making particular battery systems. My father owned a high-end battery-powered drill, but when his battery died after about 10 years, the company no longer manufactured batteries for that mount. Dad had to replace the whole drill. I’m encouraged that batteries for my 15-year-old Black & Decker trimmer are still readily available and still fit their newest equipment. Perhaps this will be the trend.
If I even own a house with a large yard again — and I don’t intend to — I can see buying a gas riding mower to save on that initial cost. But other than that, I’m done with gas-powered yard equipment. Battery-powered equipment is the way to go.