Electric Garden Power Tools – Are they any good?

If somebody would have asked me a few years ago whether I’d ever consider using electric garden power tools, I’d have laughed at them. There is no room in a professional gardeners life for cables, poor performance and needing to ask your customer if they have a plug socket you can use.

Petrol garden tools will always out perform their electric counterparts and that will remain the case for some time to come.

However, in recent years, manufacturers have started bringing lithium battery powered tools to market and in some situations, there may be a good case for home gardeners or even pros to have a few on stand by.

Lithium batteries are rechargeable and depending on their voltage (18v, 36v, 56v) they offer varying amounts of power and last varying amount of time. If for example you were going to buy a decent range lithium lawn mower, it could set you back £6-700 once you buy battery and charger and only give you 50 minutes of power. However, it would be quiet, have a decent cutting action, probably be self propelling and they usually fold up neatly for storage.

It still wouldn’t give you quite the power of petrol and probably cost more pound for pound but there are no emissions, much less noise, low maintenance and they are light in weight.

For the garden pro however, there is no lawn mower powered by battery that would be much good for us. If you’re cutting 10 lawns a day, the battery and probably the build quality, isn’t going to match the petrol models from Honda, Hayer and the like. But I do see a future when it could happen. Or in a situation where a pro is doing a couple of half day jobs, where the lawn is just a small part of the work, the lithium powered mower could be a decent addition to the pros tool set.

If I’m doing “general garden maintenance” work, which will include pretty much everything, I usually take my smaller petrol mower as I know it’s probably going to only be used for half hour or so. And if the lawn in question isn’t huge, why take a bigger, more cumbersome mower just for the sake of it. Especially if I’m taking a host of other tools.

And that kind of brings me to where lithium powered garden tools can work for a pro, and I currently have two of them.

The first is a Qualcast extendable hedge trimmer. Now don’t get me wrong at 18v, it’s got nowhere near the power of Stihl petrol equivalent I own and only lasts around 35 minutes but at 3.6kg in weight, it’s great for tackling the tops of fairly soft hedges. it also extends to around 2.3M, which is a decent height.

It’s also quite delicate, which I like for some hedging plants. Going hell for leather on some hedges can leave them looking pretty sorry, so this little tool is great for just taking off a few straggly tops and wild bits of new growth.

The second little battery powered tool I have is a little MacAliister strimmer. It cost around £60 and again it lasts for about 35 minutes. I’ve got a pretty powerful, petrol powered Stihl strimmer which I use for heavy strimming but for edging medium sized lawns, the MacAllister is more forgiving.

It’s lightweight again and uses a very fine wire cutter and also has an adjustable head. For edging lawns, I actually prefer using this, to my big bad petrol model.

It will probably only last the year and it doesn’t get used every day but it’s great for zipping around the edges of lawns and being smaller, it gets into tighter spots.

To me, there really isn’t any place in the garden for tools that have cables. Petrol will always be my first choice but that’s because I need speed, power and performance. But I’m starting to see a big case for the lithium battery powered garden tools. While they currently might not get close to petrol in terms of power, they are getting closer.

Within 5 years, I can see there only be choices between cordless lithium and petrol tools, I think the days of buying a lawn mower or strimmer with a cable, may be numbered. I definitely would never advocate buying things like chain saws with cables, that’s just asking for trouble, already petrol and lithium are really the only 2 sensible options.

If you’re considering buying a new garden tool this summer and don’t really like the idea of a 2 stroke petrol engine, maybe it’s worth looking at a lithium cordless model. just be sure to check the item comes with the battery included in the price as people like Ryobi, charge you extra for battery and charger, which can add another £100 to the price.