Friday, July 31, 2015

Ryobi 40V Lawn Mower Review

UPDATE 8/21/2015: Since this article I have mowed my old city lot. The Ryobi mower blazed through the grass with little effort. The Ryobi batteries have four green LED indicator lights that show power usage and after mowing only one of the lights on a single battery had been used. If you have a city lot this is more than enough mower for you!

ORIGINAL: Again with the utopian energy dream!? Well, yes, I must admit that I am truly excited about the battery/electric revolution. To my consternation it has been taking much longer than I expected… I always repeat the refrain “Don’t worry, the electric revolution will happen in the next couple of years!” Wholeheartedly believing my own prophecy. Last winter I dove into the tepid waters of electrification fully expecting to come out holding my head in pain. Luckily my experience with the Ryobi 40V Snowblower met and exceeded my, admittedly low, expectations. It was exciting to see a battery powered product actually work as its gas powered counterpart! Since then I purchased the Ryobi 40V Lawn Mower. After all, the snowblower gave me two batteries that already work with the mower, why not give it a try?
Design/Build Quality
Tech reviewers pick on products that use plastic instead of metal. This mower has a plastic housing that may reaffirm the belief that plastic is the inferior material. As part of the design Ryobi left a 4-6” buffer between the front of the mower and where the blade. Having this space makes it impossible to make close cuts when butting the mower up to a tree or a fence. This decision may have been made to ensure that if you slam into a tree you aren’t going to slam the spinning blade through the plastic housing or, possibly, as part of an aesthetic design for the height adjustment for the wheels (when you lower the blade the wheels slide forward). The wheels are not the biggest you can find on a mower but are large enough to take on mildly rugged terrain.
As far as handling is concerned, this mower feels a little mushy. Originally I chalked this up to the plastic build, but after further inspection it appears that the rear wheels flop to the side when turning, making the steering feel sloppy. The bolts don’t have any additional thread to allow a tighter fit and attempting to removing the nuts, to add spacers, the mowers height adjustment just raised to compensate for my torque. I may attempt this again at a later date but it works good enough for now. The safety release handle is over engineered. It has two paddles, one on each
side of the power button. It would have been more secure and cheaper to just add the standard metal mower safety bar. This design has a cheap feel and doesn’t allow you to grab the middle of the mower handle, as well.
Changing the height on my old mowers was time consuming and took wrenches. This additional labor ensured that my old mowers were content with their original height. On the Ryobi it is easy enough that you could change mid-mow with a simple up down motion. The action is smooth and works very well.
Refueling (battery removal and reinsertion) is very simple and the additional battery holder is very convenient. Some articles complain about the mowers lack of auto switching between batteries. Automatically switching between batteries as they die would be nice but, the ease of pulling out the old battery and putting the new one in really makes this complaint a non issue. Finally, the quick release folding handles work great! You can just flip the quick release down and the handle folds with ease. The plastic shroud has held up well through use. While mowing I have hit several decent size sticks which made a loud “Thunk” when hitting the shroud. These encounters have not caused any blemishes on the shroud. Experience My earlier encounter with the Ryobi Snow Blower had raised my expectations for the mower (I mean if you are throwing actual physical mass into the air, cutting a little grass should be easy!) My yard, as with most yards, is MUCH larger than my driveway… that part worried me a little. Since I already purchased the snow blower I already had two batteries so… I should be good… right!?
According to the spec page the two supplied batteries are recommended for ½ acre to 1 acre. I was able to complete most of my .61 acre yard with the provided batteries (depending on the length of the grass). When the grass was regularly mowed (weekly) the mower didn’t really have a problem getting through the yard with two full batteries and about 5 minutes on the third. Just to give you an idea of run time, my full yard takes around 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Many battery powered lawn mowers have been made prior to this one, including a Craftsman mower I used a couple of years ago. The benefit of this Ryobi and other mowers, with the removable battery, is that if you run out of juice, you can always buy another battery!
When mowing through heavy grass the mower has a feature which is really cool… when it works. Mowing regular grass keeps the mower below its peak speed. The lower energy usage ensures that the battery lasts as long as possible. The feature kicks in when you hit tall or thick tufts of grass which rev’s up the blade to a higher speed and helps gets rid of the taller grass. The only problem is that sometimes it is a bit slow to react. This means that when you hit a small patch of heavy grass, the blade won’t rev up until you already passed over the area. This problem compounds you hit patches of grass that go from tall to short back to tall.. Taking this into account, you can slow down when entering the tall areas and you should be ok. When the grass is extremely thick and the mower stays on this higher speed for extended periods of time this can cause the battery to overheat and shutdown as a safety precaution. When this occurs you may wonder if that battery is permanently damaged, this is a temporary issue and once the battery cools down it can be recharged without issue.
To give an idea of how well the batteries do when compared to a conventional lawn mower, my lot requires me to fill up my tank of gas once halfway through the cut and at the end it is pretty low. This mower requires 2-3 battery swaps. This may sound painful but, it is actually much easier than trudging up into the garage, grabbing the gas, walking back (the whole time thinking “I just want to be done with this”), taking off the gas cap, pouring in the gas (missing the hole at first), trying to peer into the hole to make sure you don’t overfill, overfilling because your angle was off, putting the cap back on (Stupid 45 degree angle never threads right!), then setting down the gas can and hoping you don’t forget it when you are done mowing, try to start mower (if it doesn’t, prime and try again). The same process on the Ryobi consists of: Flip up the battery lid, pull out battery 1 and place on top of mower, pull out battery 2 and place in battery 1’s old spot, place battery 1 in battery 2’s old spot, let go of lid, push button to start.
One of the greatest things about an electric mower is that you still hear the world around you. The noise pollution bubble is gone! You hear the birds, the crack of branches under your feet, your neighbor coming on the road behind you on their bike (kind of creepy at first). Overall this makes mowing a much less stressful experience. This is something that you really can’t truly appreciate until you experience it yourself. Speaking of branches under your feet, my yard is full of them! We had a cottonwood tree that dropped branches like it was playing some kind of sick game with us (“Come on silly human, let's play pickup sticks!”). This allowed me the opportunity to hit tons of sticks with my “Plastic” mower. It normally hits the stick and you hear a hollow thunk followed by the blade cranking up its speed. Closer inspection of the cowel show no signs of fatigue, cracking or any kind of blemish. I am not saying you should turn your mower into a wood chipper, but sticks don’t pose a threat to this mower.
Overall
The power and longevity of the mower and its battery impressed me. My expectation was that halfway through my yard the fourth battery would run out (two batteries from the mower purchase and two from my snow blower). Other than the rear wheel sloppiness this mower has served me well. My old gas mower is now relegated to brush hog duty. Being part of the world around me, hearing the birds and sensing my surroundings, as well as the ease of use have been beneficial. Reminding me very clearly the other day was one of my neighbors two houses down They were mowing their lawn and the noise their mower was cranking out was so loud and obnoxious the only clue my mower was running was the slight vibration in the handle. Also, the lack of exhaust fumes from mower makes the job of mowing a little less painful as well (I mean come on, it is still mowing your lawn). Even though I need to “refuel” more often than with the gas mower, it is much less of an event. Change the battery (which is already in the mower) and and push a button.
This mower has a 20” deck so it is a bit smaller than the standard 22” of my old mower but is still relatively powerful and can handle sticks just as well. If you have a half acre or so yard and want a hassle/oil/gas/goo/noise free mowing experience this is for you. If you are currently entrenched in a different high-voltage (40 or more volts) eco-system such as EGO, ECHO, Worx, Sun Joe, Kobalt or some other manufacturer, I would highly recommend checking out their mowers. The electric revolution has started and this is just the beginning.

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