Some readers may be aware that my day job is as a lawn care contractor. I am painfully aware that small engines on outdoor power equipment are just about the worst offenders for emissions. One study found that a small yard machine engine can produce as much emissions as 40 modern cars. You read that right, it’s not a typo…40 cars! The reasons are many…catalytic converters, positive crankcase ventilation, evaporative emissions controls, efficient instead of crude carburettors….these are things that have been on our cars for over 30 years, yet our lawn mowers still use cheap carbs with fuel tanks vented to atmosphere and simple straight exhausts…not to mention all the ones burning 2 stroke oil whenever they run…. Many of these small engines are in an appalling state of tune also.
So, it’s a no brainer that going electric for garden equipment will have a big cumulative environmental effect. Not to mention the social benefits of reduced noise on weekend mornings and the health benefits of lower vibration and the elimination of breathing exhaust fumes at close range or handling petrol…but corded garden tools are a nuisance, and battery ones are mere toys for tiny gardens. Aren’t they? Well…no! Not anymore… The cheap units like the Ryobi 36v and Victa 40v are better than those that came before, and if you have several thousand dollars to spend Pellenc, Bosch Professional, and Mean Green are among the companies building genuine professional grade units.
But what if you can’t afford a $5,000 lawn mower but the small ones don’t have enough grunt? There was a gap in the market for “prosumer” or entry level commercial battery powered gear. That gap has been filled…
The new AEG 58v power tool range is marketed as being suitable for professional use, and with a 6 year trade warranty they are certainly aiming at the pro market. But do they make the cut?
First, the lawnmower.
This is a well built machine, with a sturdy steel chassis and good sized wheels.
The handles fold quickly and easily with spring loaded catches. Screw knobs allow a double fold for more compact storage. The rear wheels are mounted right at the back allowing you to pickup the handle on the single fold position and trundle it around. There are feet at the rear to allow the unit to be stood on end for compact storage, a side benefit of having no fuel tank or oil to leak!
Height adjustment is by a single lever and is easy to use.
The battery housing is styled like a conventional petrol mower engine cowling. There are two battery slots and a removable key which has an arrow on it. To switch from one battery to the other simply remove the key and reinsert with the arrow facing the full battery. The standard battery is a 4 ah unit although a 6 ah battery is scheduled for release later in the year. Currently the mower is sold only as a skin without batteries.
The blade is a one piece bar type which cuts and mulches well, although I did bend it by hitting a large rock in long grass when testing under extreme conditions. In my opinion a disc with replaceable swing back blades would be a big improvement and would make it much more attractive to commercial operators. AEG customer service was fantastic, and even though there was no stock of spare blades yet (the mower had gone on sale only a couple of days previously) they found one and put in the post for me the next day.
The catcher is a fabric bag type and works well. Thick or wet grass will not completely pack the bag full, I haven’t tried it on really dry grass yet as there hasn’t been any dry grass to cut! I think dry catching would be good.
The mulch plug is easy to fit, and mulching performance is quite good. Mulching does drain the battery noticeably quicker, but has a trade off of not stopping to empty the catcher…
There is a flap on the side where the side discharge chute slips in, a handy feature to have. Side discharge works well except in thick wet grass where it tends to block up and need clearing.
The main criticism I would make about this mower is that the blade is mounted higher than the base of the chassis. This means that on low settings the chassis is prone to hanging up if the ground is not quite flat. The lowest setting creates quite a bit of drag as the chassis brushes just above ground level. Lowering the blade by 10mm would make a world of difference!
Using the mower is simple. Hold down the button on the handle bar while you pull one of the trigger handles. After a 2 second delay the motor spins up and you are away!
If you push it into thick grass you can hear the motor power up as the load sensors detect the increased load. Keeping it in the lower power setting makes the battery last much longer.
Run time varies according to load and operating method. I have run the battery flat in 20 minutes by mulching a large yard on a low setting with tall grass. It did the job, but battery life suffered. On a well kept lawn of average size I went through a quarter of a battery. I would say the average run time is 40-50 minutes of mowing time, remembering that time you take to empty the catcher and move yard furniture etc is not draining the battery at all. A regular suburban front and back yard should not take more than half a charge unless it has been let grow too long.
So, will this mower make the grade and capture commercial sales as AEG hopes?
The vast majority of commercial operators simply won’t touch an 18” machine. Echo sells this same power unit in North America fitted to a 21” base, and it has the power to spin a 21” blade. Why AEG chose to run with an 18” base is mystifying.
Also, most commercial operators dislike bar blades and a disc with swing back blades would help here.
Finally, a self propelled option would make it much more attractive to people who are pushing the mower for 8 hours a day or more.
Run time is not a big issue, as a commercial operator would not baulk at buying 6 batteries and would probably fit an inverter to their vehicle to allow battery top up on the road (hint AEG, please provide a car charger!!!) and anyone scared off by this would not touch any battery powered equipment anyway.
Let’s move on to the line trimmer.
This is a nice piece of equipment!
Unlike most battery line trimmers on the market, the motor is mounted where you would find the motor on a petrol trimmer. This is because the AEG is a split shaft machine and mounting the motor at the trimmer head would take away the ability to use attachments on it.
The trimmer is sold with only the line trim head, and AEG do not recommend any other attachment…however the Ryobi Expand-it line of attachments (Ryobi is owned by TTI, who own AEG) will fit straight on and work fine. I also tested the demonstrator unit with a universal fit attachment sold as fitting Rover line trimmers at a local mower shop. It also fit straight on and worked perfectly.
The line trimmer has a variable trigger control like a petrol throttle, but also has a two position switch. In the high speed setting this thing is absolutely manic! It will flatten a battery in 15-20 minutes running at full speed though… Put the switch on 1 and it still has more than enough speed and grunt to do lawn edge trimming after mowing, but the battery will now last from 6-8 lawns easily. Low setting is plenty for 90% of trimming work.
The attachment I trialled was a stick edger with a metal blade. These are very power hungry and it was cheeky asking this to run it. It did, although it needed to be in high setting and sucked battery very fast. Maintenance of path edges is ok, but it struggled dealing with an overgrown pathway. The hedge trimmer attachments use far less power and this would cope easily.
The unit is pretty well balanced, although it is moderately heavy. A shoulder strap would be a very welcome addition and I cannot fathom why one is not provided! There is a natural spot to fit one and I will be adding one to my own machine shortly. Please AEG, make this a standard feature!
The guard that comes fitted to the trimmer head is huge, and unwieldy. A smaller guard is included in the box and it is advisable to fit this immediately. There is a bit of a trick to this, as the trim head has to come off to remove the old guard and to accomplish this the spool must be removed, and a bolt comes off to release the trim head body. This bolt is left hand thread! As is the spindle revealed when the body is removed…after which the collar comes off allowing access to the screws that hold the guard on. The replacement guard is a doddle to fit.
The trim head works well and is very easy to load. It takes a good length of 2.4mm line.
The reduced noise and lack of vibration are an absolute joy to anyone used to a 2 stroke trimmer…although the line whipping through the air is still loud enough to warrant earmuffs.
The line trimmer is commercial ready right now, and one battery would last the day for most people…two batteries would leave the hardest worker with some to spare.
I have purchased both of the units shown here and my business is being transitioned into a zero emissions garden care service, as far as I know the first of its kind in Tasmania although several operate on the mainland. I have also purchased the leaf blower from this range and in due course intend to get the hedge trimmer and chainsaw to match. Having operated an electric car for over 40,000 kilometres I’m confident that I can manage battery issues and operate these units professionally.
I have made a video review of these machines which is on YouTube which you might also like to watch.
Here is a summary of good and bad points on both machines.
Plenty of power. Equals 160cc Victa 2 stroke or better.
Quiet. No need for hearing protection.
Little or no vibration.
Robust steel chassis.
Large rear wheels make rough ground easier to handle.
Quick fold handles.
Two battery slots means long run time.
Cut quality good.
Side discharge chute
Single lever height adjustment
Blades set higher than base of chassis. On lower settings chassis grounds unless surface is very even.
On lowest height setting there is a lot of drag from chassis brushing the grass low to the ground
Single bar blade vulnerable to damage and more expensive to replace than swing back type
Only 18″ cut!
No safety mechanism to stop blades running with handle folded or mower tilted
Plenty of power
Head easy to reload
Split shaft can use attachments
Fairly heavy with battery in
Thankyou for reading all the way through this, and if you’re located in southern Tasmania and would like to see these machines in action, check out www.milligangardens.com or go to www.facebook.com/milligangardens