Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Electric mowing maybe; push-mowing probably not

I recently read with interest an article in the Aurora Beacon (IL) newspaper about Kevin Franz and his Go Green Mowing Company. Apparently, Frantz has been offering mowing services for the past 10 years, but this year decided to mow only electric and hand-pushed mowers. In the article he describes his concerns about carbon emissions arising from the use of gasoline-powered mowers as the reason for using electric and push mowers.

The article said that Franz had secured “about a half dozen” customers and when he reaches 20 he intends to take on a helper. I’ve read several similar articles this spring in other regional newspapers about start-up lawn service companies that are using electric and push mowers only. These eco-mow professionals make for safe, feel-good copy for local newspapers, but you have to wonder if they can ever generate enough customers and do enough production week in and week out to make a commercial go of it.

Based upon my personal experience (that's me in the image), I don’t see how anyone could do enough production with a push mower to build what can legitimately be described as a growing concern of a company — assuming, that is, that the person doesn't provide any other property services.

For the past 34 years I’ve owned and used a push mower on our 50-ft by 100-ft. property. I started with an old Sears model that I bought at a yard sale, but about five years ago I replaced it with a light-weight Brill mower. My experience has been that a push mower doesn’t mow wet or high grass very well, and it takes longer to mow because sometimes you have to go over the same patch of grass several times with a push mower if grass conditions aren’t just right.

That said, my little green Brill is quiet, never fails to start and is easy to store when I’m done with it. I don’t see any reason to use a gas-powered mower on my small property, but I wouldn’t want to have to depend upon it to build a commercial mowing service; that’s for sure.

Electric-powered equipment is the better alternative for the eco-mow contractor, but the state of battery technology, as it now stands, hinders its adoption by production-oriented service companies. Obviously, the development of better batteries for electric mowers and other lawn service equipment would provide an attractive alternative for lawn service companies that want to serve the “greener” portion of their customer base. Corded electric equipment is just too unhandy for professional users, especially on larger properties.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlights writer Gwendolyn “Wendy” Bounds experiences with the latest alternative-energy lawn service equipment, including the new battery-powered AMP Rider from Ariens Co. It's an entertaining article and highlights a trend that will almost certainly grow — quieter, more environmentally acceptable lawn service equipment.

Manufacturers are developing a host of new alternative-energy products to market but, so far, most of them are targeted for consumers. — Ron Hall

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