Equipment matters: The fate of battery and gas power

Photo: GreenworksPhoto: Greenworks

Yesterday we touched on why more landscapers are beginning to accept battery power and what are the factors that are still holding others back.

One of the complaints often cited is a low runtime, but not much of this is from first-hand experience, but rather the assumption that nothing can compare to gas.

Try and see Tlc Part Two

Battery-powered outdoor power equipment manufacturers are trying to overcome this issue by continually spreading the word and often offering free demos so landscapers can see for themselves.

Photo: HusqvarnaPhoto: Husqvarna

“Those who try new products, are often rewarded and are ahead of the game – as opposed to those who aren’t willing to try them,” Christian Johnsson, a product manager for Husqvarna North America. “We see a lot of big light bulb moments once professionals do try out our battery-powered equipment.”

“I think initially that the product has to be used by the landscaper within the properties that they service to truly test it,” said Anthony Marchese, director of independent sale for Greenworks North America. “Once they experience the ease of use, lack of maintenance, vibration, and noise, in addition to the power, they will become believers. We have a program where the Greenworks dealers have demo product that the landscaper can try before they buy our products.”

Photo: StihlPhoto: Stihl

Stihl is another company that goes out of its way to help landscapers try the tools before they make a decision, thanks to its technical sales specialists who call on landscape companies and allow them to try out new equipment, provided they’re serious and a big enough organization.

While DeWalt believes that battery power will always have to be tested out before users will trust it, Husqvarna doesn’t think this will be the case over time.

“Eventually (and in some cases, we’re already there) landscapers will look at battery products as a completely viable option,” Johnsson said. “It comes down to a matter of trust and cost.”

Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), says that cost is going to be a significant factor.

“As more and more enter the marketplace and you get economies of scale the cost is likely to come down,” Kiser said. “That’s true with any product in any emerging technology. That will begin to signal acceptance and utilization.”

Battery management

When it comes to figuring out how many batteries to purchase and having enough to get crews, manufacturers having varying suggestions and options for landscapers.

“Battery management is a piece that requires education for crews,” said Chris Tantum, group product manager for DeWalt. “Understanding how to best take care of batteries can help you optimize runtime and battery cycle life.”

Photo: DeWaltPhoto: DeWalt

DeWalt and Greenworks both encourage the usage of multi-pack charging stations. Currently, Greenworks offers multiple chargers that allow end users to charge up to six batteries on a multi-port charging system at the same time.

“Just like gasoline-powered products, the landscaper must carry enough fuel with them to facilitate their work day,” Marchese said. “The same is true of rechargeable product. The landscaper will bring with them the number of charged batteries that they need to do their work.”

Husqvarna sees the best solutions as in-field charging solutions. Its V!600F inverter can be mounted to a truck or trailer to enable to option to charge in the field.

“We are also seeing some professionals who have adopted a full solar trailer solution to keep their products charged while out in the field,” Johnsson said.

As battery power continues to advance, backpack batteries are also coming closer to being able to last all day, depending on the equipment being used.

Will gas go extinct?

As more companies enter the battery-powered equipment market, it raises the question if gas-powered tools will be replaced entirely.

Manufacturers are more split on this question as some simply prefer to never say never, but most acknowledge it will take considerable time before this could become a reality.

Photo: GreenworksPhoto: Greenworks

“Rechargeable power tools have virtually eliminated the corded versions,” Marchese said. “I think the same will occur through noise regulation, health concerns, and the ease of use and overall productivity. Noise and vibration are very difficult on the employee who is running gas-powered outdoor power equipment for eight hours a day. In addition, there is no mixing or purchasing of fuel and no worries about the consequences of ethanol and its effect on gasoline-powered outdoor power equipment.”

DeWalt agrees that while it may be awhile the change will eventually occur.

“If you look at the trend in battery power, you see that chemistry innovations continually allow us to provide more power and runtime in a smaller more ergonomic package,” Tantum said. “You see other industries taking advantage of these innovations as well. With companies like Tesla driving awareness and belief into their products, more people are believing in the power of battery-powered tools. I think it will take some time, but I do think we will see the shift.”

Stihl, on the other hand, prefers not play fortune teller but focuses on sharing a ‘pick your power’ message to landscapers.

“It’s hard to predict as to when (battery could take over) but we are positioning ourselves to serve the customer to whatever their preference may be,” said Mike Poluka, a battery product manager for Stihl.

Kiser, who chose to not take sides, says it will really be up to the market to determine the success and survival of the two power options.

“Americans love new and so a lot of people want to try these things and the market will sort it out,” he said. “If hybrids and batteries when the autos brought them into the marketplace were all that and the be all end all, you would have seen a significant market trend toward them. We haven’t. There’s been steady progress. I think they’re (battery equipment) going to work fine for some folks and maybe not so fine for others. I just think we’re in a period of change.”

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