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Electric Tractors, Mowers, Blowers, Tillers, etc.
Last updated 2009.11.18
We do not sell electric tools. We think they are a great form of environmentally-friendly machines and endeavour to provide an unbiased source of information about them. With recent advances in battery technology, we think battery electric tools are poised to explode onto the market as quiet, efficient devices that will replace their gasoline-powered counterparts. We do sell Soneil battery chargers, which are ideal as chargers for electric tools as they are compact, lightweight, intelligent, affordable and carry safety certifications for North America and internationally.
Is there any sound in suburbia more annoying than the neighbour's gasoline-powered lawn mower on a Sunday morning when you have about another half-hour before you have to get up? The city of Brussels in Belgium has actually outlawed the use of internal-combustion powered mowers on Sundays. Another less drastic solution seem desirable? Given we cannot redesign the world to eliminate lawns, there are quiet lawn mowers that do not damage our environment as much as gasoline-power mowers. If you have the energy and stamina, and a small enough lawn, by all means use a human-powered mower, like the traditional reel mowers or even a scythe, or if your zoning permits, a grazing animal. If this is not practical, then consider a corded electric walk-behind lawn mower which are sold by dozens of companies, and are usually cheaper to purchase and maintain than gasoline walk-behind mowers and are available from a large number of manufacturers. If the area you are mowing makes corded mowers impractical, perhaps a cordless (battery powered) electric walk-behind mower would fit the bill. These are available from Black & Decker, Ryobi, Sears, Noma, Husqvarna and undoubtedly others. Black & Decker was making cordless (battery-powered) electric reel-type mowers back in the 1970's that operated on 12 volts. I am currently (winter 1999/2000) restoring one of these to operating condition (Model 8080). If anyone should happen to have a copy of the owner's manual for this (Black & Decker do not - I have asked several times now), I would sure appreciate a copy.
For some additional information on the subject of zero-emission lawn-care, check out the Clean Air Mowing Company website. This organization believes in the advantages of electric and push-mowers and carry the products that make it possible. If you can't find what you want at the local hardware store, perhaps Clean Air Mowing can supply what you are looking for.
Several people have converted dead gasoline-powered mowers to electric power, both corded and cordless versions. If the disposable engine on your mower should die, and the rest of the unit is in good condition, you might consider this type of conversion yourself. Ken Norwick's cordless conversion (start at the second item on the page).
If you require more mowing capacity than a walk-behind mower can provide, then you should look into ride-on mowers, which are covered below under the heading of tractors.
An interesting variant on the corded electric mower is the Grassmasters' Lawn Pup, a smaller, lighter mower designed for use on small lawns (e.g. townhouses, condominiums) or by those who find the conventional size mower to be too large for them to operate comfortably.
There are even automatic electric lawn mowers that operate using sunlight. Solar cells on the top power the mower, which mows in random patterns whenever there is sunlight within the boundaries set by fences or a buried signal wire. The Weed Eater Robotic Solar Mower was introduced to the market in 1994. The Solar Turtle is also available from Real Goods.
The Robomow is a conventionally charged electric mower that operates automatically, mowing the lawn without need of your assistance. Some setup is required to establish the lawn perimeter. After that, charge it, move it into place, let it go. Once it is done, put it away and plug it in again. The Toro iMow is a similar product.
A gasoline-powered lawnmower can produce as much air pollution as a car engine, while producing only a small fraction of the useful power. According to an Energy Partners, Inc. press release, a gas-powered lawn mower produces as much smog in 20 hours of operation as a 1996 car after driving 26,000 miles. What better reason could there be for choosing an electric appliance over a gasoline-powered one when replacement time rolls around?
One interesting variation on the electric lawnmower was produced by Astro Electric of Sault Ste. Marie ON in the 1970's and early 1980's. This was a battery-operated, walk-behind power unit which supported different application attachments including a lawn mower, a vacuum, a snow-blower or a compressor. Similar to garden tractors in versatility, but better suited to applications where the tractor would be too large to accomplish the task.
I know it's an arbitrary decision, but I have grouped ride-on mowers here with electric tractors.
This is a new entry in the field (as of March 2005). Their prototype is a conversion of a gas-powered garden tractor. The operation is based in Ontario, Canada.
If your requirement is primarily towing (trailers, implements), consider the Gorilla as an option. 24-volt and 36-volt versions are available. There are options for trailer hitches and electric PTO (Anderson connector) to drive 24 or 36-volt implements.
General Electric Elec-Trak
The Elec-Trak electric tractor was built by General Electric in Schenectady, New York in the 1960's and 1970's. It is no longer produced. Several models were produced, including: the E8M (8 hp); the E10M (10 hp); the E12 and E12M (12 hp); the E15 (14 hp); the E16 (an upgraded version of the E15), and the E20 (16 hp). The E8M was more a ride-on mower than a tractor. There was also an ER8-36 ride-on mower in the Elec-Trak line. The "M" suffix on some models indicated the ability to accommodate a mid-mounted (belly) mower. Available attachments included: mid-mounted (belly) mower; front-mounted rotary mower; front or rear-mounted ganged reel mowers; lawn sweeper; electric rake; manual or electric rear implement lifts (electric front lift is standard); snow-thrower; snow cab; snow/dozer blade; V-plow blade; roto-tiller; disk harrow; row crop cultivator; roller aerator; lawn roller; dump cart; vacuum; and, powered rotary broom. There were also hand-operated powered attachments available including a chainsaw, cultivator and hedge-trimmer. A rotary converter was also available to produce 115-volts AC to power other electric appliances.
The I-5 was the industrial version of the Elec-Trak, also made by GE. It was orange instead of yellow, had fenders over the front wheels, and a more moulded set than the E## versions. Apart from these differences, they were virtually identical. There were also Wheel Horse and New Idea models produced following the Elec-Trak designs after GE got out of the business.
Many of these machines are still in operation, and their owners tend to be enthusiastic about the capabilities, longevity and lack of maintenance required by these machines.
Parts and Manuals
There are still several sources of parts, manuals and service for Elec-Trak and related electric tractors.
Regrettably, Bill Gunn of Technical Services and Parts has elected to stop doing business in parts for electric tractors (May 2004). This company acquired the jigs, blueprints and inventory from Wheel Horse after GE passed these things onto Wheel Horse. Technical Services and Parts re-manufactured tractors and parts. As owners find new resources, we will try to update the relevant information here.
The Elec-Trak Owners' Club Website has a classified section and lots of good information on the GE, Wheelhorse and New Idea versions of these venerable electric tractors.
Doc's Lawn Equipment
Please contact me if you have or require additional information regarding parts for Elec-Trak. I will continue to add to this list as I am provided with information, and may occasionally be aware of limited sources of second-hand parts acquired by enthusiasts.
Electric Tractor Corporation
The Electric Tractor Corporation made the Model #9620 electric tractor. The major attachments available included a gang mower, a snow blower, a plow blade and a wheelbarrow. A roto-tiller and vibrating rake were under development. The tractor will run with the lawn mower attachment for up to 4 hours on a single charge using 6 standard lead-acid golf-cart batteries. 120 volt AC power is also available on-board to power standard AC tools such as hedge trimmers, line trimmers, etc. There is a 3-year warranty on all parts and labour except the batteries and tires. Batteries and tires are warranted separately by their manufacturers. As of 1999, the 9620 is no longer produced, however, as of January 2000, there are still 2 units available for sale.
In February 1997, Electric Tractor Corporation announced the Model #9718, a more conventional version of the garden tractor, but still all-electric. As of 1999, this vehicle is no longer being produced.
In 1999, ETC began production of the Electric Ox tow tractor, and late in 1999 introduced the Electric Ox Multi-Purpose which is capable of carrying a front-mounted mower deck or a plowing blade. Snowblower and rotary brush attachments are expected in early 2000.
There was a good write-up (and photo) about Electric Tractor Corporation in the May 1997 issue of Canadian Business magazine in the Niches column (last inside page). In the article, Newton Gingerich, Chair of Electric Tractor Corporation is quoted as saying "Even a (gasoline-powered) push lawnmower that runs for an hour pollutes as much as a car driven 800 kilometres. (500 miles)" (text in parentheses added).
I came across this machine in early 2002, and believe it is relatively new product. The Jacobsen (Textron) E-Plex II, zero-radius steering, greens mower.
While the Elec-Trak (and the follow-on New Idea and Wheel Horse models) were the most popular electric tractors in the 1970's, there appear to have been some others: Jacobsen Mark IV; John Deere Electric 90 (electric version of an existing gasoline powered ride-on mower in the John Deere line); and J.C.Penney Model 1806. There may also have been units available from: Roper; Sears (Cover from Owner's Manual for 1974 Sears Electric Lawn Tractor and Mower); MTD; and Rugg. New Idea had a range of models: EGT 80, 100, 120 and 150. Wheel Horse had E-81 and E-141 models of ride-on mowers. There was even an International Harvester Cub Cadet 95 at one time, an electric conversion of an existing model.
These images have been sent to me by various people, and are images of working machines that earn their keep, not showroom exhibits.
Some people have converted small tractors that were originally powered by gasoline or diesel engines to electric power. These have ranged from lawn and garden tractors to small farm tractors like the Farmall Cadet.
A correspondent tells me he owns a small battery-operated cultivator made by Mantis. He got his unit in approximately 1990. Based on correspondence with the company, they stopped producing this unit for many years, but restarted production in 2001. Unfortunately, as of late 2002, all signs of the electric Mantis tiller have disappeared from the Mantis website again. Even during the short time it was available on the website, I could not obtain one in Canada. The local distributor said Mantis was not prepared to get CSA certification for the electric model.
As of 2002, Remington (Desatech) is producing an electric tiller called the Garden Wizard.
Line trimmers (often referred to as weed-eaters or weed-whippers), are available as both corded and cordless (battery operated) electric models. If you are working within easy range of an outlet, the corded types are usually cheaper and don't run out of charge. If outlets are not handy, battery-powered models usually have easily exchanged batteries so that freshly charged packs can be used to replace a pack that has become discharged through use.
Cordless versions are available from Black & Decker, Ryobi, Sears, Toro and Weed Eater. Corded versions are made by Weed Eater, Black & Decker, Toro and many others.
Corded and cordless (battery operated) electric hedge trimmers are available commercially. While corded versions won't run out of charge, hedge trimmers seem to have an uncanny inclination to slice their own power cords. Cordless versions are available from Black & Decker (model CTH600). Corded models are available from several manufacturers.
While the truly noisy and annoying gasoline versions of these tools are all too common, the electric versions still seem fairly rare. Shop Vac has a corded version that comprises part of one of their vacuum cleaner units and separates from the collection unit for use. Poulan Outdoor products has a cordless unit called the Weed Eater Vroom. According to promotional material, the Vroom uses an internal 12-volt battery, weighs in at 7.2 pounds and produces air velocities of up to 105 mph. Black & Decker has introduced a Versa-Pak version of a hand-held blower.
Electric chainsaws are a great alternative to gasoline buzz-bombs for most household tasks - just plug in and go. No trouble getting it started, no need to lug around mixed gasoline, dry and clean or change fouled plugs or breathe that foul 2-cycle engine exhaust. Outside of those of you making a living in the logging industry, how often do you use a chainsaw more than 150 feet (50 metres) from an electrical outlet? There are number of firms that produce corded electric chainsaws (normally 110-volt AC and less than 15 amps). Mine is a Remington, others include McCulloch, Wen, etc. An interesting variant on the electric chainsaw is the Remington Pole Saw; a small, light electric chain saw mounted on the end of a pole, it really extends the reach of the operator by means of a telescoping pole that extends from 6 to 12 feet.
E-mails to Wen customer service regarding their chainsaws now get this response.
WEN IS STILL IN BUSINESS, UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP. BUT WE SOLD THE CHAIN SAW LINE TO WAGNER POWER PRODUCTS SEVERAL YEARS AGO. YOU CAN REACH THEM AT 1-800-962-6118. MAYBE THEY CAN HELP YOU.
WEN CUSTOMER SERIVCE
So, for information on where to get Wen electric chainsaw parts or service, try Wagner's tollfree number (1-800-962-6118, EXT. 7950).
The Minibrute was produced by Tensen in the 1970's in Portland
Several people have written to me about the MiniBrute electric chainsaw. It does operate on 12 volts DC. There are apparently quite a few still in service. The switches appear to be a weak point for these units; several people have written asking where they can get replacement switches. Another correspondent has told me that the switches were designed to be the weak point, in order to save the motors from burning out; we agree a circuit breaker or a fuse would have been a better solution. The 12 volt DC electric motor was a product of American Bosch in Columbus MS. One correspondent reports that the unit he has carries a model number, casted in the motor housing, (1730722M030MM).
2005.03.11 – This just in from a correspondent in Tonopah, NV. He writes they have "a Minibrute chainsaw that toasted the trigger switch. After countless hours of anguished searching he found a replacement switch in an obscure out of the way hardware store in Bishop, Calif. (High Country Lumber Ace Hardware 760-873-5874) The switch is made by or for Hillman Fastener, Cincinnati,OH. The Ace Hardware P/N is 55353-A for a "Heavy duty,extended lever,power tool switch,w/o lock" 125/250 volt AC 16/8 amp rated. The P/N for a switch with a lock is 55355. The price for this switch was $6.50. Lock pin can be removed to install in the saw. He does not think that this switch will out live the other switch (he did buy two) without some further protection. Before operating the saw he will install a 12 volt solenoid (Napa Echlin P/N ST80 $37.70) continuous duty to control the power to the saw, using the switch to energize the solenoid via an added third wire. The solenoid will be located at the batt. + terminal, along with a 12 volt circuit breaker. Be advised that because the saw is 12 volt positive ground (saw case is positive!) operation touching any metal on the vehicle can cause a direct short burning up the newly purchased switch."
If one wanted a cordless chainsaw, you could use an EnerPak portable power supply (or another healthy inverter and battery combination) to power one away from the grid.
The Elec-Trak tractors had a 36-volt chainsaw that operated off the tractor battery pack.
A new entry in the cordless electric chain saw market is Makita, with their Model UC170DWD - 12V Cordless Chain Saw. It is designed to cut plastic pipe with a short 6-inch bar. A competitor for the Makita unit is the Hobuy CCS-1-115 cordless chain saw. These do not appear to be designed for cutting or trimming trees or lumber.
Ice fishing has long been associated with the roar of small gasoline engines use to power ice augers, filling ice shacks with noxious fumes. An electric auger is a convenient alternative, like the Strikemaster Electralazer.
There have not been many electric snowblowers worthy of the name. However, we have just acquired a Toro Power Curve 1800 (corded, 12-amps) unit. Others have reported satisfaction with the top-end Toros. My previous experience with a couple of Sunbeam units from the 1970s were not good. So, we'll see how it goes with the Toro.
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