Before Brenton Waite from TW Horticultural Services bought an EcoTeq 100% electric Rival ride-on mower, he and his business partner Craig had crunched the numbers. They had figured out the cost benefit of going electric and knew they’d be ahead on fuel, maintenance, and parts costs. Plus, it would be a big tick towards running the sustainable business they set out to be.
Brenton and Craig were also keen to explore the WHS benefits of switching to an electric mower. Reduced noise, less vibration, and zero emissions would all benefit their operators.
The expected and unexpected benefits of an electric mower
TW Horticultural Services is a garden-based landscape maintenance company that started its operations in the Ipswich area of South-East Queensland in March 2021. Maintaining streetscapes is a core part of what they do, which means their operators are mowing for many hours each day.
With one of their team leaders experiencing referred elbow pain from vibration over his 35-year career, Brenton was keen to test a Rival electric zero turn mower to see if the reduction in vibrations really stacked up when compared to his petrol mowers.
“Knowing about the constant impact from vibrations, it was one of the things I was interested in checking when I test drove the Rival,” says Brenton. “The reduction in pain management of his elbow since using the Rival has been quite noticeable. We’re all really impressed with the machine.”
The WHS benefits of a more comfortable machine with reduced noise, emissions and vibration has the potential to reduce workplace injuries and claims.
“The reduced vibration is really important to us because the long-term effects of vibration can be quite debilitating.”
Brenton was really surprised by how quiet the machine was. “Our guys still wear hearing protection on the machine to alleviate the noise as much as possible. But you can have a phone conversation while it’s running. It’s pretty much silent.”
Operator comfort extends beyond vibration, noise and emissions.
“The seats are so much better. That’s another reason why our guys are fighting to go on it! We’ve got operators who are between 6’5 and 5’2 and everyone’s comfortable on it.”
After discovering EcoTeq and booking a test drive, an EcoTeq technician conveniently brought the Rival directly to their premises.
Brenton had his questions and wish list ready. While he was keen to explore the WHS benefits of reduced vibration, he was wary of how tough the mower would be and was delighted to discover it is very well built.
“I wanted to make sure it could mow all day. Other factors were knowing how it was constructed. A lot of it is alloy, which can be expensive to repair. We needed a machine that would take wear and tear from bumps against rocks, trees and poles. I was concerned until I saw how well it was welded. It has steel outside and bumper rails to reduce the impact.”
While test driving the Rival, Brenton was quick to recognise what a powerful and efficient addition the commercial electric zero turn mower would be to their outdoor maintenance fleet.
From day one, Brenton and Craig knew they wanted sustainability to be a core part of their operation. They also recognise that it won’t be long before Australia, following the lead of states in the US, will legislate against the sale of petrol or diesel-powered outdoor maintenance equipment and machinery. As more outdoor maintenance tenders emerge with questions about green credentials, TW Horticultural Services is in an excellent position to respond affirmatively.
With hand-held electric maintenance equipment not quite at the performance standards they need for their operation just yet, they instead opted to invest in the electric mower.
“We advertise the electric mower and have it in our capability statement. People comment on it when they see it,” says Brenton.
See Brenton in action on the Rival mower as he gets a full day of mowing done on a single charge.
There was another significant and unexpected benefit of transitioning to the Rival Brenton and Craig didn’t discover until the electric ride on mower became operational. The Rival has taught their team to mow more efficiently overall. They’re taking what they learn from operating the Rival and applying these techniques to the petrol mower.
“The Rival makes you cut efficiently. It makes you slow and stop. It operates to the conditions. The EcoTeq mower picks up on the thickness and heaviness of the grass and mows at the rate required. This saves you time. The travel speed might be slower, but for the overall time of the job, you’re in front.”
Using a traffic light system of green, orange and red, the Rival indicates when you need to slow down to cut the grass properly on a single pass.
“If it stays on red, the blade will stop moving. But if you were to slow down a bit, the blades pick up speed again and will cut through. On the petrol machine, the same thing will happen — if the operator goes too fast for the grass thickness and length, it will get clogged or the blade speed will slow down and the engine will stall. Using the Rival is training the driver to be more efficient. They then apply this to the petrol machines. They’ve changed their behaviour.”
Mowing with the Rival has taught Brenton’s team to be more aware of how the machine feels. They now know when they need to back off their speed and not just trust that the mower is cutting.
Brenton notes that their company’s reduction in fuel costs has been significant. When working out the cost benefit of buying an electric mower, they based their fuel running costs on $1.60 to $1.65 per litre. This was before fuel prices skyrocketed and the federal government removed the 22-cent excise in September 2022.
“We charge our unit on a heavy week 3 times. It takes 4 to 6 hours overnight. We just plug it into the wall and away it goes. Our fuel cost is between 30 and 40 litres per week on a heavy load. We’ve saved somewhere between $2,500 to $3,000 since our electric machine became operational about 36 weeks ago.”
Impressed with EcoTeq’s after-sales care, Brenton described the ease and cost-benefit of getting the Rival serviced compared to his petrol mower.
“EcoTeq’s maintenance division called us and booked in the service. If we needed someone to come out to fix something, if we let them know before midday, they would send someone out that same day for repairs, otherwise it’s the next day,” says Brenton. But they haven’t needed repairs yet. “Their technician was in and out in about an hour.”
|Service after 8 months||Petrol mower||Rival 100% electric mower|
|Services required after 230 hours of run time||3 or 4||1|
|Outreach to book a service||No||Yes|
|Notice required||4-6 weeks||1 day|
|Downtime||4 days||1 hour|
|Maintenance required||Grease points, replace seals, change oil, filters and belts.||Diff oil changed|
|Estimated savings||$0 compared to electric mower||$1,800 compared to petrol mower|
“Generally, we go through maybe 3 or 4 punctures in the tyres over a 12-month period and possible replacements, too. We’ve had no issues with the wheels on the front or rear,” says Brenton, noting yet another saving. “Our service savings with the Rival is the equivalent of 3 or 4 services of the petrol mower.”
“We’re really, really impressed with the machine. It’s been a real game-changer for our guys and for multiple reasons. Our guys prefer it to the petrol mowers we operate, and wherever possible, we use it instead of our petrol mowers,” says Brenton.
It doesn’t hurt to be noticed for all the right reasons, too.
“Feedback from clients, the public, and others in the industry we come in contact with — they’re quite impressed with the machine and want to have a chat about it. We’re very proud of it,” says Brenton.
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