A recent DOT- Federal Highway Administration analysis (https://bit.ly/2Sbv7xD) estimated that about 5.5 million gallons of gasoline are burned every year by lawn care equipment in Vermont. Since burning a gallon of gas emits around 20# of CO₂, that represents 5,500 tons of CO₂ released into the atmosphere.
However, advancements in lithium-ion battery technology over the past decade have enabled electric lawn care equipment to become a cost-effective alternative for most residential and commercial applications, and there are now lots of high-quality brands and models to choose from, including robotic mowers.
This is all welcome news to Vermonters who want to reduce their use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. Two bonuses of e-lawn care are quieter operation and the absence of tail-pipe emissions from all e-lawn care equipment. It is also a lot more convenient because there is no transporting and storing gas. It is a lot less expensive to operate because electricity costs less than gas. And there are minimal maintenance and repair costs. According to Consumer Reports, the performance of residential e-lawn care tools are on par and often exceed gas-driven versions.
Vermonters are embracing this change. There were just a few commercial battery-electric lawn mowers operating in 2016 by two upstart lawn care companies. Five years later there are probably around 30 commercial E-mowers being operated in Vermont by at least seven lawn care contractors, a few farms, a homeowner’s association, the Vermont Department of Forestry Parks and Recreation, the City of Burlington, and the University of Vermont. There are also now thousands of electric walk-behind mowers and such other lawn tools as string trimmers, leaf blowers, and chain saws being used by homeowners and renters across the state. Sales have been so brisk that many stores are having trouble keeping them in stock.
Although e-lawn care equipment are often more expensive to buy than similar conventional products, all seventeen Vermont electric utilities now offer mail-in rebates for e-mowers and other lawn tools under Vermont’s Tier III Renewable Energy Standard. The incentives for commercial e-mowers range from $1,000 (e.g. VT Electric Co-op, Washington Electric Co-op, Stowe Electric), to $2,500 (GMP), and $3,500 (Burlington Electric Department). Depending on the utility, incentives for residential walk-behind mowers range from $50 to $100, and incentives for chore tools are generally around $25, with GMP offering an extra “bundle” incentive worth $50 when three tools are purchased. In the past two years the Burlington Electric Department has issued close to three hundred $100 incentives for residential e-mowers, making it one of their most popular incentives ever offered.
Because the use of e-lawn care equipment is still the exception rather than the rule, the Mow Electric! campaign and website was launched on Earth Day 2021 to both encourage and support the wider adoption of e-lawn care equipment. The website has links to all the Vermont utility incentives and a list of all the residential and commercial e-mowers and yard tools currently available with prices. It also has key specifications and links to the manufacturers’ websites, and a list of equipment vendors. There are links to on-line product review videos and user testimonials, along with a Neighbor-to-Neighbor equipment demo network. Finally, it has a directory of e-lawn care contractors throughout the state.
The website also has resources to support grass-roots Mow Electric! advocacy activities. These resources include articles about the economic and environmental benefits of e-lawn care equipment, interactive CO₂ Emissions and Life-cycle Cost Comparison tools, and a marketing survey designed to demonstrate the demand e-lawn care services to contractors around the state.
We invite you to join the Mow Electric! Movement. The web site is mowelectric.org.
Steven Wisbaum is the founder of the Mow Electric! Campaign. He can be reached at (802) 363-3930.