Future weekend warriors who have plenty of grass to mow might trade petroleum-burning engines, hydraulic systems, belts and pulleys for sleek, silent, battery-powered machines that look more like lunar rovers, if makers like Husqvarna have anything to do with it. When the company released its Panthera Leo concept in 2009, the lithium phosphate battery-equipped wonder took the outdoor power industry by surprise. No one expected an electric riding mower that could run for two hours at full power. No one expected a futuristic design that makes liberal use of composites created with recycled materials.
This mower is still in the prototype stage, and it’s difficult to say if it will ever make it to full production. In the meantime, check out these electric riding mower options available online or at a dealer near you.
WhisperMow’s 48-volt sealed battery, all-electric, rear-steer lawn tractor comes equipped with a 41.4-inch (105 cm) wide, front-mount cutting deck that will cut grass for up to 100 minutes in the XR configuration (80 minutes base model). That means you can mow about 1.5 acres on a single charge. The commercial-quality tractor can also be fit with a snowblower, rotary sweeper and other implements to make it a true multipurpose machine.
WhisperMow’s design uses a single electric transmission and single deck motor. At $5,000 ($5,500 XR), the WhisperMow is competitively priced with comparable petroleum-burning models, and, as the product of experienced electric-vehicle engineers and designers, it’s also technologically elegant, which will minimize downtime.
The Ariens AMP is a traditional-style riding mower (think Forrest Gump) that looks like the classic rear-engine rider. The 48-volt, low-maintenance, lead-acid battery-powered machine can operate for up to 75 minutes on a single charge. The AMP is motivated with a single electric motor that’s coupled to the drive wheels through a hydrostatic transmission. The electric motor delivers constant torque to the hydrostat, which in turn controls speed and direction. The AMP’s mower blades are spun with a pair of spindle motors – no more belts and pulleys to contend with. At $3,299, the AMP offers an attractive price, and with its 34-inch cutting width, it’s perfect for fractional acreage yards.
Hustler Turf Zeon
Hustler Turf’s Zeon is an all-electric, zero-turn design that makes use of proven lead-acid battery technology in a 48-volt package that can mow more than an acre on a single charge – in 42-inch-wide swaths. This machine is so quiet that it takes some getting used to since there’s no engine noise to clue you in to just how hard the mower is working. The Zeon’s welded (fabricated) deck is as heavy-duty as many of Hustler Turf’s other machines – this level of quality comes at a price ($6,999). This mower is currently the only all-electric zero-turn out there.
For the smaller yards, the diminutive 36-volt Recharge Mower Model G1-RM10 can reportedly operate for up to three hours on a single charge. The all-electric Recharge’s 27-inch-diameter mowing deck handles tight spaces with ease, and like the AMP and Zeon, it employs a pair of motors to drive the mower blades. The Recharge is designed with a hitch to pull lawn rollers, small carts, sweepers and other non-ground-engaging tools. At $2,195 delivered, this little electric rider is currently only available online.
At least one other player is soon to be in the mix. In the near future, look for the Eco-Mow B-41 tractor with a 48-inch deck and a single-charge mowing capacity of up to 2.5 acres. This zero-turn design is well into its testing stages and, as of this writing, will likely employ a single electric motor coupled to the drive wheels through a hydrostatic transaxle. Separate motor(s) will power the mowing deck. Keep abreast of Eco-Mow’s progress at the website, www.Eco-Mow.com.
If you’re tired of the noise, smell and maintenance issues associated with your old gas- or diesel-powered mowing machine, and you don’t plan to mow for more than a few hours a day, these battery-powered options are likely to please. Before you invest your hard-earned cash, request a test drive at your place and be sure to talk to other owners to gauge their level of satisfaction (check online for owner chatter, or ask the dealer for owners in your area). If you want to zoom around the yard on a futuristic machine like the Panthera Leo, you may have to wait a few years. Husqvarna says the Panthera Leo, or something like it, could become reality by 2015. I have no doubt that you’ll have scores of battery-powered riding mower options by then.
Editor Hank Will still remembers the Electrak garden tractors built by General Electric back in the 1970s and hopes alternative-fuel riding mowers are here to stay this time.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.