Over the past several years, the outdoor power equipment industry has seen a real push toward electrification as an alternative power solution for lawn care and landscape equipment. Many leading manufacturers have embraced the trend as battery power offers users a number of valuable advantages.
Changes in regulation are also steering the industry toward battery power, such as last year’s decision from the California Air Resource Board (CARB) to approve a proposal to end the sale of small off-road engines and transition to zero-emissions landscape equipment beginning in 2024. This has amplified the need for robust battery-power solutions that can deliver the run time, performance and power needed to meet the pent-up demand for landscape work.
“In the past year especially, OEMs that manufacture lawn care and landscape equipment have realized that they have to have a battery offering,” says Nick Moore, director of product management – Electrification at Briggs & Stratton. “When California made the decision about moving away from internal combustion engines, people didn’t just say, ‘Oh, to sell in California, I have to have this.’ They realized this is probably the first of several regulation announcements to come and that, if they are going to continue to make these products and service these markets, they need to have a battery offering.”
While CARB’s approved proposal would end the sale of new gas-powered equipment using small off-road engines, it does not prevent landscape professionals from using their existing gas-powered equipment past 2024. However, the advantages presented by battery power are enticing more OEMs to pursue electrified equipment, regardless of the changing regulatory environment.
Advantages of Battery Power
“Obviously the output of zero emissions is a huge regulatory driver for OEMs and end users. But, battery-powered equipment also offers a better user experience because there is less strain on operators and more controllability,” Moore says. “Another big driver is mitigating the cost of fuel. With where fuel prices are right now, for professional cutters who have to fill up a whole trailer full of equipment every single day, battery power can really benefit the bottom line of their business.”
Reduced maintenance of battery-powered equipment is also an attractive benefit for landscape professionals whose livelihoods depend on equipment uptime.
For commercial cutters, the reduced noise of battery-powered equipment can deliver a competitive advantage and allow them to gain contracts with clients that may have stipulations or preferences around emissions and noise levels, like municipalities, schools and hospitals.
“Battery power really has a multitude of benefits across the spectrum; both from the end user who is on the machine and gets that benefit of use, to people who own a business, who get a financial benefit from it,” Moore says.
Considerations for Electrifying Landscape Equipment
From battery chemistry and sizing to overall power and runtime, there is a lot for equipment manufacturers to consider when selecting power sources for their electrified products.
The power and lifespan of a specific piece of battery-powered equipment will vary greatly depending on the battery specifications and the application for which it’s being used, according to Moore.
Power-solution providers like Vanguard® are innovating batteries that can be scaled and paralleled to meet a range of equipment needs without compromising durability or performance.
“There’s been this misconception around batteries that they offer lower power compared to traditional engines. In reality, the power a battery can offer can almost always meet the need of the application, similar to gasoline-powered equipment,” Moore says. “Another misconception is that battery power can’t handle the elements. It’s especially important for professional landscapers to understand that today’s battery solutions are built tougher and tested under severe conditions. This ensures the battery can deliver a consistent and powerful performance in harsh environments and applications.”
Vanguard Lithium-Ion commercial battery packs offer OEMs a powerful solution that can easily be integrated into a range of applications. The battery packs feature a high-performing Lithium-Ion battery and a Battery Management System (BMS) that helps users monitor the health of the battery and ensure top performance.
Another concern that both OEMs and end users express when it comes to electrification and making the transition to battery power is providing the runtime that’s needed while balancing costs.
“Equipment manufacturers want to eliminate a customer’s ‘range anxiety’ without making the machine overly expensive,” Moore says. “So, as a power solutions provider, we’re helping OEMs find that sweet spot of power and cost efficiencies as the electrification market grows.”
Proper battery selection and sizing will be critical to broader adoption, particularly in a market like the lawn care and landscape industry where contractors don’t have room for unscheduled downtime, according to Moore.
“Equipment with a high load and runtime that is sized with too small a battery will be a dissatisfier,” Moore says. “We work closely with OEMs to ensure they understand where and when it makes sense to incorporate battery power and how to do so effectively. With electrification, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.”
Moore says that setting and managing expectations is essential when pursuing electrification.
“There are so many different options and factors that OEMs need to weigh when designing an electrical system,” Moore says. “When both the OEM and end user know what they are working to achieve with the electric equipment, and the performance they can expect, everyone is happier.”
As the landscape and lawn care industry braces for further changes to emissions requirements and more contractors are seeing the benefits of electric equipment, OEMs are ramping up their efforts to integrate and offer battery power.
To keep pace with this demand, power solutions providers like Vanguard are innovating battery power solutions that are durable and powerful enough to keep up with the demanding schedule of landscape crews and professionals.
“We are closely working with OEMs to understand their pain points and offer solutions that help them do their job and be successful in a world with changing demands,” Moore says. “Wherever the industry takes us, we’ll be there to support OEMs and their customers in navigating these changes.”