Powering up - our move to battery hand tools
Battery power is definitely the future and, as the rising number of electric cars being sold shows, not just for horticultural equipment. We recognised this trend in our 2019 business plan, in which we committed to converting 50% of our small hand tools used by our business to battery power by 2025. Since then, we’ve become more ambitious. Where viable, we will now replace all our smaller fuel-powered hand tools – such as leaf-blowers, strimmers and hedge cutters – with battery alternatives by the end of 2023 in our Grounds Maintenance division, with the rest of the business following suit by 2025.
We’re taking these bold steps for various reasons, but central to the move – as with everything we do – is caring for our environment. There is no question battery-powered tools are greener than their petrol equivalents and switching to them can deliver huge savings on emissions. For example, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, running a petrol mower for one hour emits the same amount of pollution as 11 new cars running for the same amount of time, while a battery-powered one produces no fumes at all. When you consider the number of mowers we use, that’s a significant reduction in pollution.
But it’s not just about being eco-friendly. Battery tools cause less noise pollution as well, meaning they’re more pleasant to use for the operator and for those who live or work nearby. While operators still need ear protection, noise levels are considerably lower and operators are less likely to experience stress as a result of working in an overly noisy environment. It also means teams can potentially start working earlier and finish later at premises where noisier tools could cause a disturbance, for instance, near hospitals, schools, libraries or care homes.
One significant advantage of battery-powered tools for operators is reduced vibration, meaning they are more comfortable to use, especially over longer periods. Extended use of power tools can be associated with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), but the risk of this is significantly reduced with battery alternatives – a fact that has not escaped many in the ground maintenance industry and beyond.
Another compelling reason to make the switch are the cost savings. While there is obviously an initial outlay – something we are able to mitigate due to our purchasing power with a range of suppliers – once the tools and batteries have been purchased, the running costs are considerably lower. With minimal levels of basic maintenance, there is no need for the kind of regular servicing or changing of oil, filters and spark plugs you get with petrol-powered tools. There are also fewer components that can go wrong on battery-powered tools and, if something does break, you will often only have to replace one element – the power source or the tool itself.
Savings on fuel are likely to be even greater, especially when you consider the general upward trend in fuel prices. Our calculations show that using a battery-powered mower for a month costs around the same as it does to use a petrol equivalent for just one day. Overall, we’ve worked out that a battery-powered tool such as a hedge-cutter has paid for itself after around 70 uses due to the savings you can make.
These compelling reasons for switching are why there has already been a big shift in our industry, but we are the first to make a commitment to converting 100% of our smaller petrol-powered hand tools where there is a viable battery alternative. And our ambition doesn’t stop there. Ideally, we would like to adopt the same approach for larger, heavier equipment. Whether it’s hand tools or ride-on mowers, we are working with suppliers such as Husqvarna, Stihl, Makita, Mean Green Machines and Ariens to constantly monitor available and emerging technology so we can continue to reap the many benefits of battery power.
In years to come, that could mean longer-lasting batteries, more efficient and quieter motors or even completely automated electronic tools guided by GPS and controlled through an app. As the technology develops, we want to be leading the way in adopting and deploying it so we can continue to care for our environment in the most efficient, safest and greenest way possible.
Supply Chain Director