Green Commercial Lawn Mowers
Advances in electric batteries are driving our cars to a quiet, clean, energy-efficient future, and increasingly batteries are replacing fossil fuels and motorized equipment like lawnmowers. On top of that, innovative charging solutions are giving a second life to electric vehicle battery packs, and a whole new meaning to growing green.
There are 40 to 50 million acres of lawn grass in the U.S., making it technically the largest irrigated crop in the country. And an estimated 56 million lawn mowers are keeping all of those yards and golf courses trimmed.
If you consider that in one hour, a single gasoline-powered mower produces the same amount of emissions as driving 11 cars, and that an estimated 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment, then maintaining our green spaces in the current manner isn’t doing any favors for the rest of the planet.
Which is why electric-powered lawn equipment is gaining favor with eco-conscious homeowners and forward-thinking commercial lawn care services.
The city of Burlington, Vermont has bought into the advantages of battery power, and is encouraging others to do the same.
DARREN SPRINGER: We at Burlington Electric are promoting electrification in many technology areas. We have electric vehicle programs, electric bike, electric bus, cold climate heat pumps for heating and cooling, and as part of that we also are promoting electric lawn mowers, both commercial scale, and residential. And we have rebate programs to support those, and we’re really doing it because our customers can save money, uh, when they mow electric compared to mowing with a gas mower. It's better for the environment for a variety of reasons, and it’s also quieter, so it’s better for our neighborhoods as well.
JOHN DAVIS: Consumer-grade electric mowers, blowers and trimmers are available in most big-box home improvement stores, and are cost-competitive with gas-powered models right off the shelf.
Larger commercial units, with their higher capacity batteries, may cost a bit more up front, but lower fuel and maintenance costs can pay that back and generate bottom-line savings in 3 or 4 years.
Burlington's incentive program offers up to $100 dollars for homeowners and $3500 for commercial operators who purchase electric lawn mowers. It has become their most popular rebate program, and other cities are starting to follow suit.
Blue Roof Foundation, a Dallas-based non-profit, educates consumers and pros on the tremendous potential of battery-powered lawn equipment, and came up with a unique battery recharging solution to aid in the transition.
Blue Roof has created this prototype trailer, equipped with lithium-ion modules re-purposed from a Nissan Leaf battery pack. It allows a typical lawn care crew to swap and recharge equipment batteries on location, and power through a full day of mowing without burning, or spilling, a drop of gas.
CARLOS OJEDA: The whole idea of the trailer is to really carry, store, and plug in one power cord that recharges everything inside. So the whole idea is that, during the work day, they can just come back, swap batteries, just like they were switching and refueling gasoline.
JOHN DAVIS: The high-energy battery packs that propel electric vehicles may lose capacity over time, yet still produce enough kilowatt-hours of power for less-demanding uses.
CARLOS OJEDA: Our main mission is really to reduce pollution by reducing the usage of small gas engines and switch that to electric. It just happens that, by repurposing the Leaf batteries, we’re actually at the same time, delaying the time that those batteries will end up in a landfill. So we’re giving them a second life as an effect of all this. So, it’s part of our mission, but the most important one is really to reduce pollution.
JOHN DAVIS: Reducing air and noise pollution while saving money is a win-win-win proposition. So, when it’s time to replace that old mower in your shed, remember that mowing clean can preserve the green all around us.
Tire Tracks: 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750
In the 137-year history of the automobile, there have been many that both captured our attention, and progressed to legendary status. But then there are others that, while coveted when new, are less well known to collectors of today. Now, one such car recently caught the eye of our own Roger Mecca, who decided this particular Italian coupe deserved a return to the spotlight.
ROGER MECCA: For many devoted gearheads, there’s that one car classic car they yearn for, endlessly scouring websites, auction catalogues and local car shows looking to find that pristine example or restorable project– that Holy Grail to make their car dreams a reality.
For these fanatics, just mentioning that particular make and model can induce regret-filled stories of missed opportunities or a longwinded discussion on why it’s the ultimate in driving excellence.
Once such example is the Alfa Romeo GTV, produced between 1965 and 1974. It was a designed to be the great balance between a family car and something you could rip down any tight Italian road. And while it’s flown under the radar for many car fans, most Alfa enthusiasts will tell you this is what made the brand so iconic.
Richard Garre owns this 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750, a car he’s loved for 50 years. In 1973, a college roommate who owned a GTV tossed Richard the keys and they went for a drive. Within moments, he had an epiphany.
RICHARD GARRE: I was in the car for about 10 minutes and I go, ‘I need to own this car!’
It had everything. It had the looks, it had the sound, it just– it, it had just such a great visceral experience. I go, ‘this is it- I gotta own this car!’”
The GTV, after driving it and owning it, it really did kind of change my life, especially towards being in the car business. I realized after working on cars for a while, that, uh, I think this is a good business I’m gonna be in. So, the start of my senior year, I was looking for employment either, you know, twisting wrenches or working for a car company or a dealership.
ROGER MECCA: Which he did from then on, including once having his own shop that specialized in, you guessed it, Alfa Romeos, and other high-end European brands.
There were four main variations of the GTV, based on the displacement of the 4-cylinder twin cam aluminum engine. The 1300, the 1600, the 1750, and the 2000. Now, while each has their own followers, most Alfa fans, including Richard, will tell you the 1750 is the sweet spot. It gives you the best balance of power and finesse.
Delivering 130 horsepower and 125 pounds of torque, the 1750 redlines at 7000 RPM. And when you get there, the little 1.8 liter starts to sing. Downshifting and throttling into a corner, it sounds and feels like you must be going 80, though you’re barely doing 30. In fact, it takes almost 10 seconds to reach 60. But trust me, when everything feels and sounds this good, you don’t care.
The five-speed doesn’t like to be rushed, but it’s velvety smooth. The feather-light steering provides intuitive feedback and the cornering grip and stability encourage you to go harder and faster.
The GTV is so much fun to drive, you almost forget just how great it looks- even 45 years later. It was the first model designed by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, created when he was just 22 years old. Known for such icons as the Lotus Esprit and BMW M1, he never liked the GTV. Though it’s hard to understand why. Simultaneously masculine and elegant, one look and there is no mistake what the GTV was designed for: driving fast and having fun, but still being refined and exotic.
Now, if you’d like to own a GTV, you are in luck because they made more than 40,000 of these over the years. The challenge, however, is finding one that’s in really good shape.
These were notorious rust buckets, and a lot of people didn’t treat them very well, so finding one that’s in excellent condition- that can be a hassle. Finding one that’s in perfect condition? That can cost you $100,000.
But if you do find one to make your own, please do yourself and every GTV lover like Richard a favor: don’t keep it safely tucked away like a museum showpiece. Drive it as often as you can, just like Alfa Romeo intended. But I have a feeling that once you get behind the wheel, that won’t be a problem.