Big Batteries Give Electric Yard Tools the Power to Compete with Gas-Guzzlers

A brave new world of li-ion landscaping

Li-ion Landscaping

Claire Benoist

While battery-powered yard tools are quiet, efficient and hassle free, they rarely pack the same power as their gas-consuming counterparts. But new electric yard tools with bigger batteries have muscle that rivals their gaseous brethren.

THE TREND

Battery-powered backyard tools have typically topped out at 18 volts—plenty for light work but not nearly enough for cutting fat branches, trimming dense grass, or blowing piles of wet leaves. Manufacturers are now introducing 36-volt lithium-ion-powered tools that can handle those more-demanding tasks, often as well as gas-powered ones can.

THE BENEFIT

Without a combustion engine to deal with, users will never have to clean up gasoline spills or winterize the fuel system. They'll also never fuss with ripcords and finicky engines, since electric tools turn on instantly. Battery-powered tools are much quieter, too. Because they don't idle, they make noise only when in use, which can make for happier neighbors.

Leaf blower: Most blowers draw air through vents in their sides and force it to turn 90 degrees before blowing it out, an inefficient route that wastes power. Instead, the Stihl blower pulls air from a rear vent and channels it straight out of the nozzle, saving energy. On its highest speed, users get 385 cubic feet of air per minute, comparable to gas-powered blowers. Stihl BGA 85 $500

Chain saw: Even months after charging, Oregon's lithium-ion-powered chain saw will start instantly. It can cut a three-inch-diameter branch into 250 slices on one charge. And if it senses too much stress, it shuts itself off, preventing wear on the motor. Oregon PowerNow CS250E $500

Lawn trimmer: Black & Decker's latest edger is 28 percent lighter than a gas model. Users can run it with less power for touch-ups or more for overgrown weeds and can cut a mile of lawn edges on a single charge. Black & Decker Cordless String Trimmer/Edger LST136 $170