I’ve used Greenworks lineup of 40V then 80V line of lawn equipment to take care of my acre of grass (and driveway in the winter) for over 5 years. Overwhelmingly, the experience has been positive with clean, quiet, vibration-free battery power really taking the edge off of lawn maintenance. If you are used to gas mowers, do yourself a favor and try an electric mower –– environment aside, it feels like pushing around a box fan compared to a loud, vibrating, smoke belching, antique.
When we learned Greenworks were launching a commercial lineup of Zero Turn Lithium mowers to compete with Mean Green Mowers and more importantly compete with the awful machines that commercial lawn care companies use, we had to take a look…
The Greenworks brand was started over a decade ago by the Chinese Global Tools Group parent company with a large minority stake being bought by German based Stihl Group as of May 2016. Stihl brings to the table expertise in high quality gasoline powered products, though the company has their own battery division with products that overlap with Greenworks portfolio.
Like I said, I’ve used Greenworks’ consumer electric tools and mowers and mostly they’ve done a great job. My biggest gripe is that sometimes the tools felt a little plastic-y and not up for hardcore tasks. I’m not sure if that’s due to the brand heritage, cost savings to offset expensive batteries or something I learned during their visit: You can’t have metal on metal moving parts on electric mowers because of static that can short the electronics.
Greenworks has gone from their original 24V lineup to an 80V lineup and a 40V lineup of consumer products. Obviously 80V allows for more power and generally speaking is used for higher-end products. Last year, the company introduced a third 60V tier of products which I found to be a mis-step because it is now watering down the product lines into too many tiers. If you have an 80V lawnmower, you can buy an 80V snowblower without having to buy another battery, often the most expensive parts of these tools. Or if you do buy another product, like a 80V chainsaw with a battery, you can use that battery to add extra time to your mowing or snow blowing. With all of these tiers, Greenworks is going to have too many tiers without needed differentiation.
If you’ll allow me to digress a little here, it would be nice if the battery-electric tool industry could standardize on one set of batteries that work with each other. For instance eGo, another great lawnmower is 56 Volts. Home Depot alone lists 3 pages of electric push mowers ranging from 20-82 Volts and none of the brands batteries work with each other. I was told by Greenworks that there might be some announcements on this front coming soon but I really feel the industry needs to consolidate here.
The same year that Stihl came on board, Greenworks created a new division of yet another tier 82V voltage lineup of products labelled “commercial”. I’ve not tried any of them first hand and they are only available through third-party purchasing agents who own different geographies of the US and sell direct to lawn maintenance companies, often with ~ 5-year leases. I’m told that even though the batteries in the leaf blowers and light duty gear look like the 80V batteries that I own, they aren’t compatible even though 2 volts is often a fine margin of error in electric tools.
Lithium Z 48-Inch Stand On Mower and Lithium Z 60 Inch Ride On Mower
With all of that out-of-the-way, Greenworks was nice enough to bring out their new “Lithium Z” Zero Turn Lawnmowers to my house. Little did they know that I had been in Alaska for a month and hadn’t cut my lawn in that time so I was going to give them something a little crazy to work on. Better yet, it had rained the night before.
The 20-inch high wet crabgrass didn’t seem to faze either mower as demonstrated below. In fact, there isn’t even seem to be any resistance as the quiet mowers went right through the grass with the only byproduct being clumps of shaved wet grass.
One thing that was particularly disconcerting was the lack of noise these things put out. They roll around as if they are being pushed, yet can attain a usable speed very quickly.
Each of these has 5 motors (2 for wheels and 3 for blades) powered by a 13.8kWh battery that will last around 5 hours of cutting time. I’m told that is a conservative estimate but mileage will vary there. What I was a little bit more concerned about was the charging situation. Greenworks brought along their 110V AC – 82V DC inverter that is actually external to the vehicle. I’m told it won’t work on 240V and the charging is quite slow which is unfortunate. If you think about it, most outlets put out about 1.5kW so you are looking at a 10-hour recharge. That means these things will need to charge overnight and can’t be charged for instance on the way to a job or from job to job. Also the batteries aren’t removable as far as I’ve seen.
The charging interface looks a lot like a J1772 standard EV charger but is quite different. J1772 delivers AC to a car’s on-board inverter, whereas the Greenworks Commercial mowers take a direct current charge to the batteries at 82V.
It is my belief that future commercial mowers will jump onto the same standard of AC J1772 chargers as cars allowing them to use car chargers to refuel. OR maybe they will skip right to CCS to allow very fast recharging without lugging around an internal inverter.
Notice the similarity above of the Greenworks DC charger above with a typical J1772 AC plug.
Like automobiles, we’re right at the beginning of electric commercial lawn care disruption. It is a much smaller market, so a lot less investment is going on but it is clear to me that the first movers will have an inherent advantage, especially when customers begin demanding them. It’s easy to see why that will happen. These are quiet, clean, and powerful and you don’t smell any petroleum residue in the lawn after it is cut.
From the lawn workers perspective, you have a much quieter ride with less vibration, no gasoline to worry about and powerful cutting and travel.
But we’re still early days here and you can tell from Greenworks’ first effort that a lot of improvements are coming. Charging will be better. The products will have a cleaner look. These look very prototype-y with bent metal exteriors vs. a moulded shell.
Also charging is currently not well done. I would expect either removable batteries or fast-charging options to eventually come to the market allowing more than 5 hours of cutting time per day.
Finally, that monster 13.8kWh battery ain’t cheap. After the demo, I was ready to pick one of these up thinking they would be in the $3-4,000 range. LOL, nope. These start at over $20,000 and if you think about the amount of batteries and the hardcore nature of the product, that makes some sense. These are meant to be run every day, not once every week or 2 weeks.
All of that said, if you are a company buying commercial grade lawn care now, the advantages of electric far outweigh the short-term price advantage of gasoline-powered ride-ons. I highly recommend a test drive. Find a local dealer here.
The competition: Mean Green Zero Turn Mower – built in Ohio.
Other more consumer products to consider if $20+K is out of your budget:
- Ryobi 38 in. 75 Ah Battery Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower
- Cub Cadet RZT S Zero
- More in our guide to electric lawn care
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