Deere Launches Electric ZTrak Zero-Turn Mower
John Deere announced this week its all-new Z370R Electric ZTrak residential zero-turn mower. That mower arrives in an outdoor power environment increasingly turning to battery power and away from small spark-ignited, off-road engines that EPA says contribute 5% of total U.S. air pollution--and more in urban areas.
It is a potentially rich market for manufacturers as they look out over a consumer base that maintains 40 million acres of grass lawns in the U.S. By some estimates, the market for battery-operated lawn and landscaping equipment could reach $14 billion next year. Want proof? Just look at any big box hardware retailer this spring and you'll find aisles of battery-operated outdoor tools and equipment.
This is at least in part to consumer demand, but also because local and state governments are pushing ordinances and laws banning the sale of small gas engines, at or below 19 kilowatts or 25 hp and below. Although, with some irony, sales of spark-ignited off-road engines with much improved environmental profiles, especially larger engines, are rising at a healthy clip. One kW equals 1.341 horsepower.
The feds are eyeing battery-powered off-road equipment, too--but at a size a bit larger than used by your average homeowner. The Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in late 2022 includes a 30% rebate (max $7,500) for mobile-electric power equipment with a weight of fewer than 14,000 pounds with a battery capacity of at least seven kilowatt hours. That would include, for example, large commercial-grade mowers used on golf courses.
The goal of many legislators and regulators is zero emissions from small engines. More than 100 municipalities across the U.S. already have restrictions put in place regarding the engines generally found in yard tools and machines like lawnmowers, edgers, string trimmers, chainsaws and leaf blowers. Several states, Illinois and New York included, are eyeing laws that would ban new sales of gas-powered lawn and garden tools.
California is already there. It is set by next year to ban the sale of new small, off-road engines, 25 hp and below by next year. The Golden State is a coming gigantic market for battery-powered outdoor tools. California counts 16.7 million small engines below 19 kilowatts. The state's new regulations don't ban small gas-powered tools. But merchants will be banned from selling new and eventually used. California's goal is to achieve 100% zero emissions from small off-road engines by 2035, essentially replacing spark-ignited propulsion with electric.
Engines powered by diesel fuel and engines that are used in stationary equipment, including standby generators, are not subject to California's regulations. Federal law preempts states from regulating new engines which are used in construction or farm equipment and vehicles, and which are smaller than 175 horsepower.
Deere's electric residential zero-turn mower is targeting property owners who want to maintain their yard with reduced maintenance, and less noise and vibration. "Everyone has different needs when it comes to their land, and we understand that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to energy solutions. That's why it is important for us to provide our customers with a broad range of mower options without compromising performance from gas machines," said Eric Halfman, go-to-market manager, riding lawn equipment, John Deere.
Deere has competitors in the electric mower market. Kubota and Ryobi offer zero-turn and riding mowers.
Other manufacturers have added battery-powered farming equipment. For example, CNH's New Holland put down a marker late last year with a battery-powered all-electric light utility tractor. The New Holland T4 Electric Power unit has four-wheel drive and is powered by an all-electric, 75-hp motor (up to 120-hp peak power). New Holland's battery pack delivers up to a full day of operation. Electrical outlets on the tractor support tasks such as welding, and it doubles as a backup power generator.
CNH has invested in another electric tractor startup, Monarch Tractor. Monarch, maker of the MK-V, the first commercially available, fully electric, driver-optional, smart tractor, began producing units last year at its manufacturing facility in Livermore, California. The MK-V--100% electric, 14-hour run time and zero tailpipe emissions-- operates as a tractor or a utility vehicle, as well as a portable electric generator. The Monarch is driver optional and can perform pre-programmed tasks without a driver.
California-based electric tractor maker Solectrac, with plants in California and North Carolina, has three battery electric tractor offerings with solar arrays for recharging in addition to other renewable energy sources.
The Z370R Electric ZTrak features a sealed battery and onboard charging to supply power to the unit. The fully sealed battery allows for mowing in wet and rainy conditions. The 3.56 kWh maximum capacity battery is backed by a 5-year manufacturer's warranty and enables customers to mow up to 2 acres. The Electric ZTrak can be charged without removing the batteries by using a standard outdoor extension cord and a 110-volt grounded outlet. Given its battery capacity, it does not qualify for the federal rebate.
The Z370R Electric ZTrak features a large LCD screen used for monitoring battery levels. An integrated Bluetooth system enables owners to remotely monitor the mower's charge status and battery level through the MowerPlus.
For information: www.johndeere.com/golf
Dan Miller can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF
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