Category Report: Mowers
Electric corded lawn mowers accounted for only 6% of the walk-behind market in 2010 — but that’s up from 2.9% in 2009, according to data from consumer research firm The NPD Group.
Soaring fuel prices, tougher government emissions standards and a general trend toward environmental stewardship have given rise to more cordless electric walk mowers and manual mowers, especially for homeowners with smaller lawns. And powered mowers are feeling the trend, as well.
Rob Little, manager of the walk mower category for Toro, said the green movement combined with higher gasoline prices has resulted in more homeowners looking at cordless battery-powered mowers the last two seasons. “For this reason, we introduced last spring our new e-Cycler cordless mower,” Little said. The e-Cycler combines a 36-volt system and 20-in. cutting deck, making it a good fit for yards of a quarter acre or less.
Little said, however, that while homeowners are interested in green products, “they are typically not willing to pay extra for them.”
Sun Joe president Joseph Cohen is more bullish on the green trend, which he sees encompassing all landscaping activities. “We think the trend of manual, electric lawn mowers is here to stay, as more consumers continue to adopt a ‘greener’ attitude,” Cohen said. “We also believe that convenience is key. Our products offer a variety of intuitive features — from large wheels for greater maneuverability and low resistance, to a self-propelled system drive that allows the mower to do almost all the work — that make lawn maintenance quick, easy and affordable.”
Sun Joe’s new line, Mow Joe, features electric models that do not require gas, oil or tune-ups — thus no concerns about startup or maintenance. Some units are cordless, Cohen said, which allows for easy maneuverability around yards.
Go green or else
As Little pointed out, some consumers will not pay extra for green products. Soon, though, they may have no choice, or will be incentivized to do so.
New regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) take effect beginning this year that would require engines on mowers to meet more stringent evaporative and emissions standards. These new national standards are similar to the CARB requirements (California Air Resources Board) in place in California since 2007.
To get in front of the forthcoming stricter emission standards, Toro this year introduced a Kohler XT6 engine on its Lawn-Boy walk mower lineup. The Kohler XT6 engine employs overhead valve technology for greater efficiency, cleaner emissions and improved durability. Toro has also introduced a “Smart Speed” drive system that allows the operator to select from a high or low ground speed setting — high speed for mowing open areas and low speed when added control/maneuverability is needed in tight areas around landscaping, Little said.
As consumers adopt newer electric technology as the “go-to” machine for lawn maintenance over traditional gas-powered machines, mower companies are responding with “convenience” machines, according to Cohen. The Mow Joe cordless units, for example, come with a removable and rechargeable 24-volt battery to enhance performance when fully charged.
“Our products offer a variety of intuitive features — from large wheels for greater maneuverability and low resistance to a self-propelled system drive that allows the mower to do almost all the work — that make lawn maintenance quick, easy and affordable,” Cohen said.