Battery-Powered Landscaping CASE STUDY
26-year-old company converts maintenance and construction crews to battery equipment
By Gregg Wartgow
Based in Gananoque, Ontario, Canada, Nature’s Way Landscaping has been in business 26 years. Terry Childs, president, says the company has always strived to be on the leading edge of environmental responsibility.
“We’ve been pesticide-free since we first got into business,” Childs says.
In an effort to reduce its use of fossil fuels, Nature’s Way Landscaping also began using battery-powered lawn equipment six years ago. Their intentions were good, but the results failed to impress.
“The equipment just wasn’t very good back then,” Childs relates. In fact, the batteries didn’t even make it through an entire season. “We really wanted to make the switch from gas to battery, but knew we had to wait a while for better products to become available.”
Childs didn’t have to wait long. A few years later, he saw two brands in particular, Greenworks and Stihl, begin introducing a broader array of commercial-grade, battery-powered equipment. Childs decided to give both brands a shot, and immediately converted his lawn maintenance crew to 90% battery-powered equipment.
Nature’s Way Landscaping just wrapped up its second season using battery equipment. “We love it,” Childs says. “The Stihl and Greenworks products are really proving themselves.”
Maintenance crew nearly 100% battery
The Nature’s Way maintenance crew, which varies from two to three people, still operates a gas-powered zero-turn mower. “So far I haven’t been able to justify the higher cost of a battery-powered machine,” Childs says. “I’d love to get there, though.”
In the meantime, everything else on the maintenance truck is battery-powered:
- (2) 21-inch Push Mowers from Greenworks
- (2) 16-inch String Trimmers from Greenworks
- (4) 2.5Ah and (4) 5.0Ah Batteries from Greenworks
- (1) Stihl BGA 85 Blower with AP 300 Battery
- (1) Stihl HSA 94 T Hedge Trimmer with (2) AP 100 Batteries
- (1) Stihl KMA 130 R (KombiSystem) with AP 300 Battery and Belt Carrier
- (1) Stihl HT-KM Pole Pruner
- (1) Stihl BF-KM Soil Cultivator
- (1) Stihl FS-KM Metal Blade Trimmer
- (1 Stihl HL-KM Hedge Trimmer
- (1) Stihl MSA 200 C-BQ Chain Saw with (2) AP 100 Batteries
- (1) Stihl BGA 100 Blower with AR 1000 Backpack Battery
Construction crew quickly adopting battery
The shift toward battery doesn’t stop with just the Nature’s Way maintenance truck. Childs has also begun investing in battery-powered equipment for his construction crew, which also varies from two to three people:
- (1) Stihl BGA 85 Blower with AP 300S Battery
- (1) Stihl TSA 230 Cutquik Concrete Saw with AP 300S Battery
Childs has been quite pleased with the performance of the battery-powered concrete saw.
“We use it all of the time when doing soldier and sailor courses,” Childs says. “The saw’s weight feels like half of what we’d been using. The noise is also cut in half — and there is no vibration. One battery typically gets us through a day, but we are considering a second backup battery just to be cautious.”
The Nature’s Way construction truck also has a battery-powered wheelbarrow.
“The E-Truck from Muck-Truck has been great,” Childs relates, noting that he had already been using two gas-powered units. “Everything had been great with those wheelbarrows, so I didn’t even question performance when Muck-Truck came out with a battery version. It runs all day long. When we’re not using it, we can easily plug it in to give it some extra charge — just to be cautious.”
Childs says both his maintenance crew and construction crew have never had an issue with running out of battery power in the field. All batteries are recharged overnight at the Nature’s Way Landscaping shop. Childs actually has a 10kW solar system to help generate some of the necessary electricity to do the recharging.
When batteries need to be charged during the day, Childs’ plan is simple. Chargers are kept on each truck so crews can plug into outlets at the properties they are servicing. This is easy to do on construction projects because the crew is generally at the same site an entire day. It’s a bit more of a challenge for the maintenance crew because they are jumping from property to property. Nonetheless, the approach has worked flawlessly.
In most instances, Childs opts for standard batteries that attach directly to the maintenance equipment. He looks at the typical runtimes for each size and type of battery, which tools they will be powering, and what the typical daily usage is for each tool. This gives him a good idea of whether backup batteries are needed.
“It’s important to keep in mind that battery power is replacing gas,” Childs points out. “You would never head out to a jobsite without full gas cans on your trailer. So why wouldn’t you make sure you had extra battery power with you in case you ended up needing it?”
That’s a good question. Childs has an answer: “We determined how many batteries we would need — and bought them. We still save a lot of money by not having to buy gas, oil, filters, etc.”
Childs also keeps a backpack battery on the maintenance truck. Backpack batteries cost more, but provide significantly longer runtime.
“Our backpack battery is often used when we are doing a lot of debris blowing on a property,” Childs says. “We also use it with our Stihl KombiSystem tool where we’re switching out attachments and doing different tasks. So we’re running that tool almost all day long and need longer runtime. Plus, the backpack battery is easier on the operator because the weight of the batteries is on their back. Since there’s no battery on the tool itself, that means less weight and stress on the operator’s arms.”
Plans for expanding battery usage
As pointed out, the Nature’s Way Landscaping maintenance crew is already 90% battery-powered. Childs is on the lookout for a battery-powered riding mower that can cost-effectively replace his gas-powered zero-turn.
Childs is also on the lookout for ways to continue converting his construction crew to more battery-powered equipment. “I recently contacted JCB about a battery-powered mini-excavator they are making,” Childs relates.
Nature’s Way Landscaping typically employs six or seven people. It is by no means a “big” company, but is doing big things to help advance the green industry in a positive direction.
“You don’t need to be a massive company to make a difference,” Childs says. “If you can convert even a single crew to battery power, that is making a difference. And if you can do that, it is scalable to however many crews you might have.
“There is a cost-savings element when switching to battery power,” Childs continues. “But for us, that is secondary. For us, it’s about doing what is right for the environment, as well as improving our efficiency. Battery equipment is easier to use and more comfortable for the operator. Safety is improved because you don’t have to worry about fuel spills or employees who might smoke near fumes. Clients are curious about it and really come to appreciate it. Battery power is the future, there is no doubt.”
To companies like Nature’s Way Landscaping, battery power is more than the future — it is the present, and it is making a significant impact in more ways than one.
Editor’s note: If your company has experience using battery-powered equipment to provide lawn or landscaping services, we’d love to hear from you. We continue to interview and report on full-time lawn service providers to get their insights on adopting battery-powered equipment. Send us an email to Tony@SuperLawnTrucks.com or call 866-923-0027 and share your story. You may be selected for a future case-study interview.