Here’s why electric lawn mowers are cutting down the gas-fueled competition

Making the leap to battery-powered lawn equipment can help you ditch the noise, fumes and hassle of gas models — and slash your carbon emissions, too.
By Alison F. Takemura

  • Link copied to clipboard
Person wearing jeans and dirty tennis shoes pushes Ego-brand electric lawn mower.
(Steve Rainwater/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Supported by

Canary Media’s Electrified Life column shares real-world tales, tips and insights to demystify what individuals can do to shift their homes and lives to clean electric power. Canary thanks Lunar Energy for its support of the column.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) recently bragged about signing a law that bars cities and counties from banning gas-powered engines, including in lawn equipment. I will ALWAYS protect Texas’ energy industry,” he wrote on X (R.I.P. Twitter) in August.

Dallas resident and great-grandmother Joy White shot back: I absolutely LOVE my electric lawn mower and leaf blower.” White, a 75-year-old retired law enforcement officer, bought her tools in 2020 when her gas mower broke. She praised how quiet, lightweight and easy to store they are.

With the battery-powered machines, White clears leaves and trims the grass on her property as much as twice a week. She does it to keep her diminutive dog Wiener, who has two-inch-long legs,” comfortable, she told Canary Media. White is also quick to help out neighbors by mowing their yards. Two were so impressed by her electric mower’s performance, they bought their own, White said. In her view, Gas is the past.”

White isn’t the only one thinking that way. Several local governments are pushing a transition to electric tools, in pursuit of cleaner air and quieter neighborhoods. California has set a zero-emissions (i.e., electric) standard for manufacturers of leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other machines with small off-road engines, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024. And Denver, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are all considering their own bans on gas landscaping equipment. (Dallas, where White lives, had been weighing a ban itself until Abbott’s prohibition; now it’s mulling an incentive program instead.)

Even Home Depot is encouraging the uptake of electric lawn equipment. In June, the big-box retailer announced a goal to have battery-powered products drive more than 85 percent of its outdoor lawn equipment sales by 2028.

Here’s why battery-powered yard equipment is on the rise while fossil-fueled versions fade away — and what to look for as you make the switch.

Gas lawn equipment is wildly polluting

Gas-powered landscaping equipment spews smelly, black fumes that dump colossal amounts of pollutants into the local environment. The tools lack catalytic converters, so they perform much worse than most vehicles.

In just one hour, a commercial lawn mower emits as much smog-forming pollution as a car driving for four hours — equivalent to a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, or about 300 miles, according to the California Air Resources Board. A backpack leaf blower is even worse; running one for an hour emits as much pollution as a 1,100-mile journey.

As you’ve likely experienced firsthand, these machines are also obnoxiously loud. Many people who worked from home during the pandemic found it was a sound they couldn’t escape. For operators, a leaf blower’s roar can cause hearing damage in just a couple of hours.

And gas-powered machines aren’t performing as well as electric ones, according to professional reviewers. Electric yard tools have knocked gas models out of the top spots in many of the best-of” lists that consider both — including Wirecutter, The Spruce and USA Today. Harry Sawyers of The New York Times, who used to mow professionally, called one of Ego’s electric mowers the best he’s ever used.

What to know before you buy an electric trimmer, mower or blower

Since she switched, White has reveled in no longer being forced to breathe in combustion fumes when she’s mowing or having to go to the gas station once a week to fill a gas can. She hated trying to fit its nozzle into the tiny mouth of the mower’s tank. You spill it every time,” she told Canary Media.

Landscaping with electric tools also works for White’s lifestyle. Her mower folds up and is light enough that she can put it in her car and take it over to her son’s house to mow his yard. When she turns it on at the push of a button — there’s no cord to pull — the machine sounds like a large fan, White said. It is so quiet” compared to a gas mower’s firing engine. I can talk on the phone while I’m mowing.”

You might expect a cleaner, quieter and overall better performance to come at a steep premium. But prices for these tools are competitive with their gas counterparts.

Take two mowers from a manufacturer that makes both electric and gas tools: Toro. One of their self-propelled electric mowers costs $649 with the battery and charger included. The mower alone ($549), however, is within striking distance of a similar gas mower ($529). (Still, the electric version gets better reviews.) Electric tools are also easier to maintain and have lower operating costs, just like electric outdoor grills.

Those glowing reviews in comparison to gas alternatives are reflected in market data, too. In 2021, 56 percent of 38 million outdoor power products sold in the U.S. — from lawn mowers and weed whackers to snow blowers and chainsaws — were electric, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. Globally, sales of electric lawn mowers are projected to grow at roughly 6 percent annually for the next five years.

Local programs across the U.S. have money to help even more residents make the switch. For instance, this year Coloradans who turned in their gas mower were able to apply for a $150 voucher toward an electric one. You can do a search online for your desired type of equipment to see if any rebates pop up in your state or city.

And if you’re a landscaper, the Inflation Reduction Act’s electric vehicle tax credit covers 30 percent of the cost, or up to $7,500, for new commercial lawn mowers.

Before you get swept away by any individual product, though, it’s worth considering which manufacturer ecosystem to buy into. For cordless tools, the batteries within a brand are interchangeable. So once you buy a battery and charger, you can extend your investment if you use them for other tools you purchase from the same brand. (White’s choice is Ryobi, the leading seller of electric outdoor power equipment in 2022.)

A potential hurdle for prospective buyers of cordless equipment is relying on a battery. Will it last long enough to finish the job? One of the top-rated mowers, the 56-volt Ego Power+ Select Cut Mower, gets an hour of runtime on a single charge. Depending on the accessories used and how tough the vegetation is, that’s enough to cover about a third of an acre — more than the quarter-acre average yard size in the U.S. When White has depleted her mower’s battery, it takes a couple of hours to recharge, she said.

What about storing the batteries? Manufacturers have guidance on how to help them last as long as possible, including removing them from machines when they’re not in use and storing them at room temperature in a dark, dry place. White usually keeps her batteries indoors, but leaving the mower outside in the rain a couple of times hasn’t hurt it, she said.

In three years of using her electric mower and leaf blower, White hasn’t found any downsides. She told me that once you kick your gas lawn equipment to the curb, you will not find a reason to go back.”

There’s a new power couple in town. Meet solar and Lunar — the perfect pair to electrify your life. When you have all the clean energy you need (and then some), using it becomes the fun part. So check out everything an electrified life can offer you, and then explore the all-new, all-in-one Lunar System — from its award-winning design to its powerful performance. Design one for yourself; get started here.

Alison F. Takemura is staff writer at Canary Media. She reports on home electrification, building decarbonization strategies and the clean energy workforce.