Electric riding mowers are easier to start and maintain than gasoline-powered models, and are 35 to 50 percent quieter as well. Electric riding mowers are also safer with no risk of gasoline fires or spills, and no emissions. The only environmental impact comes from the manufacture of these lawn tractors' lead-acid batteries and the power plants that provide electricity to run them. Unfortunately, reviews make it clear that this great idea still hasn't been implemented very well yet.
Two companies, Ariens and Solar, Inc., have introduced electric riding mowers in recent years, but the 34-inch Ariens Amp (*Est. $2,200), while still available at some retailers, has been discontinued for 2012. An Ariens representative tells us that the company hasn't yet decided whether to reintroduce it in 2013. This leaves the Recharge riding mower (*Est. $2,600), made by Solar, Inc., as the main choice for this year.
The 30-inch Recharge Mower G2 (*Est. $2,600) fits easily through most garden gates, but the 24-inch turning radius is larger than the 18-inch turning radius on a regular 42-inch lawn tractor such as the John Deere D110 (*Est. $1,700). The Recharge mower runs for about three hours per charge, which the manufacturer says is enough to mow up to two acres. (Maximum forward speed is 5 mph, though the manufacturer recommends mowing at a slower speed.) It will also mow in reverse.
The "smart" charger earns an Energy Star rating and recharges the 36-volt battery overnight (10 to 12 hours). At MowersDirect.com, staff say the "deep charge" battery (*Est. $400) should last two to four years depending on how well it's maintained over the winter.
Cutting height can be set at seven positions ranging from 2 to 4.75 inches. Bagging is not an option, but the Recharge mower can mulch as well as side-discharge clippings. Options include an 8-cubic-foot cart (*Est. $230) and a lawn roller (*Est. $160).
This sounds good (except, perhaps, for the price), but like the Ariens Amp, the Recharge riding mower has gotten quite mixed reviews. An enthusiastic owner-written review at MeasuredUp.com reports that the Recharge mower does mow for three hours for about 50 cents' worth of electricity. At the time of our report, only a handful of owners review the current Recharge G2 mower at Amazon.com. Two of them report that a blade flew off -- which could have caused serious injury had anyone been close by. At HomeDepot.com, the few owners reviewing the Recharge mower are very enthusiastic, praising its quiet performance and ease of use.