Rural residents may especially appreciate recent developments in electric yard and farm tools. Electric lawnmowers are nothing new, albeit rare compared to their gas-powered counterparts, but they are steadily growing in popularity. A few more are popping up in stores around the country and, more recently, solar powered versions are also available.
Many companies sell electric lawnmowers, some cordless and rechargeable, and at least one sells a lawnmower and walk-behind tractor that are solar powered. But this is not stopping rural farmers and ambitious homeowners from converting their own equipment to solar energy. Some tractors have solar canopies suspended over the machine itself, which produce enough power to run the tractor. Others are simply electric motors that are recharged via connection to solar panels.
In speaking with Mother Earth News, Steve Heckeroth, a rural homesteader in Northern California, exalted the use of electric farm machinery. He noted that gas engines rarely reach 20% efficiency while electric motors can achieve up to 90% efficiency—not to mention the engine’s much more tolerable whir as opposed to the conventional gas-powered roar. And when the solar panels are fully charged, Heckeroth’s tractors can run all day, cultivate for four hours, and drive a rototiller for two hours.
Whether a lawnmower for the front yard or a tractor out on the farm, solar powered mowers and other vehicles are still rare and pricey to buy, and expensive to convert. Nonetheless it is a prime example of the pervasive potential of solar power, which market pioneers are not unaware of. Within the next year you will find electric lawn tractors, do-it-yourself conversion kits, and further development of existing technologies such as electric tillers. Although electric vehicles can be charged off of any power source, their greatest advantage is that they can be charged from renewable, nonpolluting sources—namely, solar power.