Cordless Electric Mowers: Mowing Down Pollution

Cordless electric mowers are easy to use and work as well as gas mowers.

| April/May 2009

Tools for electric mower

Tools for removing the blade of the Neuton 6.2 are stored right in the machine.


As fossil fuels become more scarce (and expensive!), it’s a wise idea to consider more seriously how we use these resources. Americans use more than 800 million gallons of gasoline every year to mow lawns. That may be just a fraction of the 142 billion gallons used annually for all gasoline engines in the United States, but it’s a big source of pollution. Operating a lawn mower for one hour produces as much pollution as driving a car 93 miles.

Enough is enough! A couple years ago, I decided I could no longer ignore the pernicious environmental effects I was causing by mowing my lawn with a gasoline-powered machine. So I decided to switch to cordless electric mowers, and MOTHER EARTH NEWS asked me to try out a range of them.

Electric mowers can be recharged using electricity generated by renewable energy, such as solar or wind. But even if you use electricity generated from burning fossil fuels, it creates less pollution than would come from using a gas mower.

The Test Lawn

My lawn is not a refined and perfect middle-of-the-suburbs lawn. It’s pretty much what grew up of its own accord when the grading was finished around the house, supplemented here and there with some grass seed where nothing seemed to volunteer for ground-cover detail. If left to its own preferences, my lawn would probably be a hayfield. But it actually looks nice, if I keep it mowed. And it is a good test plot for lawn mowers. If a mower can make my lawn look good, it can handle any normal lawn with ease.

The summer of 2008 was challenging for testing lawn mowers. It rained, and rained again, and then rained some more. I was rarely able to mow the lawn when the grass was the right height for mowing. Almost every time I had a window of opportunity for mowing, the grass was too long, and it presented a challenge that some electric mowers met much better than others.

The Test Lawn Mowers

Just a few years ago, there were only a couple cordless mowers to choose from. Now, there are about six, of which I tested four: the Black & Decker CMM1200, the Neuton CE 5.2, the Neuton CE 6.2 and the Remington MPS6017A. All have all-wheel height adjustment with one control and can operate in mulching mode (chopping up the clippings instead of blowing them out the side) or bag mode (collecting the clippings in an attached bag). The Black & Decker and Remington models also have a side-discharge option (clippings are blown out the side), which is standard on the Neuton models. Performance for all the mowers was best in mulch mode.

dennis miller_2
6/21/2009 12:32:01 PM

I use gas engines or 120VAC motors for everything except a Dewalt cordless drill. I've also found out that small engines really react favorabally to 93 and 94 octane fuel. Tried it sometime! The boost in horse power is incredible! I've had other battery operated devices but I simply detest the short energy cycle and hate even more when the battery voltage starts to plummet in the middle of a job. Maybe I have larger jobs than those who posted below. I agree with Dan to some extent. Americans should be free to use whatever equipment they chose without fear of other politically motivated people ganging up to force them into buying something they don't want. I believe in Global Climate Change as dictated by Mother Nature... and not the global warming as invented by Al Gore. Mother Nature always wins out.

dan ogden
5/16/2009 10:01:06 AM

You people who want to get rid of grass lawns because their maintenance is somehow supposedly harmful to the environment are loony! I'm interested in cordless lawn mowers because I'm tired of the maintenance costs and hassles of gas lawn mowers, not because of some environmentalist-wacko concern. I love having a grass yard and hopefully environmental leftists such as those who have made comments above won't take away my and others sensible people's enjoyment of a grass yard.

barbara smith_6
5/6/2009 7:49:20 AM

Rechargeable lawn mower seems like a silly idea to me. My old rotary mower (cost less than $100) uses human power to push it, needs no recharging. Lawns are wasteful of our water supply, should be kept to a minimum at any responsible home. Vegetable and flower gardens, wildflowers, fruit and nut trees could replace that non-productive, outdated luxury--the lawn.

4/6/2009 8:07:15 PM

Hate to point out the obvious, but my manual Scott push reel mower does a great job mowing, gives me a good workout, and uses no electricity and no fossil fuels. I highly recommend getting simpler.

4/5/2009 8:40:53 PM

My ancient 2 cycle Lawnboy gas mower definitely needs early retirement but maybe it shouldn't be replaced by an eletric mower. I'm thinking maybe its time to switch from growing grass to something more planet friendly to help mow down pollution. Its not just the mower, but the chemicals, the watering and the maintenance time commitment. Depending on the climate there are better ground covers that are more environmentally friendly. Clover for example not only doesn't require mowing but also adds nitrogen to the soil.

guy _1
4/4/2009 6:47:49 AM

Hi, I didn't see any prices of the individual mowers in the article. Perhaps the author could provide them for comparison. Thanks.

4/1/2009 9:29:43 PM

I have had a Neuton for the last two summers, and can't wait for the third. I bought an extra battery, and that's all I've spent on it. It cuts better than my riding mower (Snapper) which is good, too, but not as good. My yard is large, so I can't use the Neuton for the whole yard, even with the extra battery. When I have the energy (I'm 63) I walk behind the Neuton over a two day period. When I don't, I use the riding mower and the Neuton to trim. The smell of fresh-cut grass is sweeter without gasoline fumes......

4/1/2009 10:03:11 AM

Back in the 70's my father-in-law took an old Sunbeam electric mower and put a car battery on it. He then would charge the battery with an electric charger. It worked well, especially since the mower was so lightweight. I have tried to explain this to my kids to see if one of them could make one like it for me. No luck. Does anyone know how this can be done?

pat miketinac
3/31/2009 9:41:08 PM

When I was a kid back in the early 60's I built an electric mower with an old washing machine motor, bike training wheels, some wood, sheetmetal for a blade, and a pushmower handle. OSHA would have had a FIT! It worked good and was quiet, but the cord was a nuisance.

3/31/2009 1:32:46 PM

The next logical move is Li ion battery powered lawn tractors...get on with it!

3/30/2009 12:29:32 PM

Clean Air Lawn Care is a full-service sustainable lawn care company using both the Neuton and Black & Decker cordless electric mowers. The company runs its emissions-free electric equipment off its truck-mounted solar panels and recharges it overnight with wind energy to ensure the entire operation is powered by clean energy. Organic fertilization programs are also offered to customers. Clean Air Lawn Care has found such success with the clean and quiet electric equipment that it has expanded to 15 franchises encompassing 23 territories nationwide. In 2008, Clean Air reduced over 32,000 pounds of air pollution by switching customers to clean electric mowers. Clean Air has also partnered with both electric mower manufacturers to drive innovation and improve the product performance. Learn more at

suzanne horvath
3/20/2009 12:53:25 PM

I have had a Neuton for many years(6 or 7?). I have the small, red model. Believe me, this little mower has taken a beating from my "yard" and I think I finally killed it this year - but it may just need a new battery; I'm still using the original battery that came with it. This is a great product, and their customer service is fabulous. When I first started using it, people would come over, as I was mowing, to see what I was doing. Because they couldn't hear anything (over the normal neighborhood noise), I guess they thought I was pushing a toy mower around for fun :-} I keep hoping my neighbors will take the hint and buy one, but unfortunately most of them live by "if it makes a lot of noise, it must be doing a better job". And, about wet grass sticking to the underside, someone told me to use a silicone spray on the underside. Last tip: I found that after a month or two, it's a good idea to take the top off the mower (maybe you can't do this on the newer ones?) and clean out all the dried bits that seem to collect around the motor, wires and circuit board. After loosening debris with a stick, I turn it on its side and get as much out as I can. If any is left, I use a small hand vacuum. Just enough power to get stuff out, but not damage anything. You'd be surprised how much lighter the mower is without all that in there. By the way, I fold it up and store it vertically, in my laundry room, in the winter. Couldn't do that with a gas mower. Can you tell I love this mower?

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