Do they cut it?
-Battery power and robots

Photo; Husqvarna Group

Although it has taken some time for battery powered gardening products to earn the trust of avid gardeners, it seems the time has finally arrived for battery operated garden equipment to take precedent in hardware stores. Could it be that battery operated products have changed the way consumers garden forever?

It is fairly clear that modern day batteries are now bringing their A game to all battery powered products, easily powering smartphones, laptops and even cars, in today’s modern world. STIHL is one of many brands that have become a big part of this revolution, marketing its range as the most up to date in battery operated products.

STIHL’s industry standard technologies are born from decades of innovation, which has included chain oiling, chain braking systems, electronic ignition systems, anti-vibration systems, side-access chain adjustment and patented smart engine technologies.

STIHL has since drawn from this innovation, collaborating its best ideas to its new platform of battery-powered tools, boasting features that are lightweight, as well as easy to operate and maintain.

Battery powered – perfect for hardware stores
It seems that hardware stores are also cashing in on the ever-increasing popularity of battery-powered products, particularly due to battery-powered products boasting significantly lower operating costs and no scheduled maintenance costs.

This is the perfect situation for hardware stores that do not feature a service department, because then they can sell battery operated garden products, without having to offer the ongoing servicing as well. A servicing department is a benefit often only required by customers using petrol powered gardening products, which are more likely to break down and seize up, especially after being stored for long periods.

Something for every garden
Today, STIHL’s battery power range is available in three tiers of performance: the Lithium-Ion Range for smaller gardens, the COMPACT Battery Range for medium-sized and larger gardens, and the PRO Battery Range for larger gardens and professional applications.

The Lithium-Ion Battery Range features built in batteries and offers lightweight handling to ensure garden jobs are even easier to complete. The COMPACT Battery Range, for medium and larger gardens, delivers tools that are not only easy to use, but feature exchangeable AK batteries and offer flexibility throughout the range.

The PRO Battery Range is designed specifically for larger gardens, as well as professional applications, for those jobs that are more demanding. The range is certainly pulling its weight, particularly considering more and more landscaping professionals are choosing battery powered over petrol because they experience the same power and run time professionals often expected from petrol-powered products; all while enjoying a product that is low on noise, and emits zero exhaust emissions – a perfect selling point for the environmentally conscious.

For those who are concerned with using battery-powered products on larger garden jobs, STIHL has also recently introduced the professional backpack battery, so users can plough through a large proportion of gardening on a single charge.

STIHL batteries are engineered to include advanced features such as LED charge lights, to show remaining battery life. Its products are also specifically designed to last, according to the company, which says that even after 500 charges, the battery retains over 80 per cent capacity, because the batteries are designed with specialised voltage monitors and temperature sensors to ensure optimal operation and a long life.

Are Australians ready for robotic mowers?
It seems recent garden trends are seeing garden maintenance as less of a priority, particularly as more and more Australians continue to juggle both work and home life. In today’s modern household, it is easy to see why the job of mowing the lawn is one of the last chores completed around the house.

Replacing the trusty petrol push mower with a robotic version could be perfect for those who are time poor, but there are many things to consider before your customers opt for robotic mowers, over petrol or battery-powered mowers.

The main purpose of a robotic lawn mower is to maintain grass at a consistent height daily, rather than letting the grass grow long and cutting it short again. Consistent mowing also results in a healthier lawn.

So far, it seems robot mowers are popular with homeowners who have an open flat yard, with very few obstacles. However, robots can also mow more challenging yards with slopes and obstacles, as long as the yard is set up properly.

Obviously if there are holes in a user’s lawn, the robot can easily become trapped and it may need to be physically rescued before it gets moving again.

The high price tag of robot mowers also remains a deterrent for Australian consumers, with many preferring to opt for high-powered petrol or battery operated mowers, for the same price as a low to mid-grade robot mower.

Questions also remain over the cutting ability of robotic mowers, particularly with so many featuring a low profile and small wheels. Cutting widths are also considered particularly small, which means bigger lawns will require several recharges before the lawn is finished.

Another deterrent is of course the problem of those who may think it is a good idea to swipe a robot mower while unattended. In saying this, many products now come with pin codes, alarm systems and electronic boundaries, and simply will not work outside of these boundaries.

Brands and prices
Brands of robotic lawn mowers include well-known names such as Husqvarna, but also lesser-known robotics brands such as Ambrogio and Tech Line.

Ambrogio’s lawn mowers are designed in Italy, with its engines also made in Italy. Tech Line is another brand, both made by Italian company Zucchetti, a company specialising in home products and outdoor appliances.

Husqvarna Automower 315 – gold standard
The Husqvarna Automower 315 is one mower with a gold standard reputation for robot lawn mowers in Australia because it is easy to set up, with users only needing to set up guide wires and program a mow schedule. It also has a vast cutting height from between 0.8 and 2.4 inches, which is impressive compared with competing brands.

Instead of large blades, the mower also boasts a circular disc that contains three carbon steel razor blades and makes a finer cut than a push mower. Husqvarna includes lift, tilt and obstacle sensors that shut down or redirect the machine, so it will not cause injuries or damage objects in the yard.

One of the advantages of purchasing a high-end robot mower is that they often feature GPS navigation, which not only allows the mower to navigate different zones, but can be tracked, via GPS if stolen. It also boasts a theft protection system with a pin code required for intervention and an alarm sounds if the pin code prompt is ignored, while the unique charging port is another feature that ensures it remains unattractive to thieves.

Ambrogio Robot – suitable for many lawns
Designed by Zucchetti Centro Sistemi, this robotic lawn mower has powerful cutting power, performance and is also user-friendly, with impressive technology that recognises obstacles and adapts to cut thicker grass.

With star-shaped blades, it has been designed to give an even cut across all types of grass, and the traction on the wheels enables the mower to easily scale slopes of up to 55 per cent, which is the highest scale on the market. Complying to international safety standards, it offers blade protection to prevent accidental contact, safety sensors, and a push stop button. Additional features include patented sensors, advanced navigation devices, electric power for zero emissions, powerful lithium-ion batteries for longer life, and a hardwearing chassis for maximum performance.

Undoubtedly, Australia will see a huge increase in the amount of robotic lawn mowers available as more brands continue to release and improve their models.

Set up
Setting up a robot mower perimeter is considered reasonably easy, with a perimeter usually wired using stakes in the ground. Most modern robotic lawn mowers are designed to mow different grass types and lawns that are oddly shaped and often have the ability to manoeuvre around obstacles such as flowerbeds, poles, swimming pools and children’s play frames.

All robotic lawn mowers are mulching mowers, which means they do not collect the grass but instead cut it into fine clippings and scatter them to decompose so the nutrients go back into the soil.

It is also important for users to consider how long it takes the robotic mower to charge and how much grass it will cut on one full charge. Many robotic mowers use the new lithium-ion battery technology, which means that they can be charged in under an hour and there are no adverse memory effects, however most high-end robotic lawn mowers can automate mowing by working to a set schedule.

Maintenance
While robotic mowers do not require a lot of maintenance, as they do not need emptying and grass clippings do not need to be cleaned up, most manufacturers recommend replacing the blades once a year to ensure that users get the best out of their robot.

To robot or not to robot
While there are clear positives and negatives in purchasing and operating a robot mower, the fact remains there really is nothing more satisfying than following the die-hard Australian tradition of giving the lawn a quick mow on a clear spring day, no matter how big or small a garden may be.