Archives for May 3, 2008


It’s Not Easy Being Green

We’re so close, and yet so far, from truly rechargeable devices requiring little or no fossil fuel.

In half an hour I’ll be heading to a dealership in Minneapolis to look at (and probably buy) a Neuton rechargeable mower. They’re the first ones that finally have what I need to cut my lawn with no fossil fuel needed: a 19″ swath, removable battery (extras are $99) and a price-point that’s reasonable though a hair on the high side ($479).

I have reservations about the device, though reviews are generally good about their older, smaller models and the battery life, cutting capability and so on. The other reservation is that this purchase is — at a minimum — a five year purchase cycle so I’ll live with this decision for a long time. My first reaction though was “Who the hell is Neuton?” since I’ve always purchased name brand mowers, specifically Toro brand. I’d certainly be more comfortable buying from a major brand, but none of them offer the sweet spot of what I require like the Neuton does and, in fact, Toro no longer makes rechargeables.

Currently I drive a diesel full size car that gets an average of 30mpg if I don’t drive like a crazy man. But what I really covet is a diesel or gas-assist, plug-in hybrid like the new, plug-in capable 2009 Toyota Prius. My lease runs out in November of this year, and there’s no way this model will be shipping since the dealers would already have pre-order ability, which they do not.

The reason for the delay in shipping products that are rechargeable, is the current state of battery technology.  Using plugin hybrid cars as the most visible example, there is tremendous effort underway in the world (Toyota, GM the most visible) to ship a plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and Toyota’s CEO stated last year that Lithium Ion batteries (needed for range and efficiency) wouldn’t be ready and volume shipping across Toyota’s line until 2012. Unfortunately for me and my lease end-date, I’m probably one car cycle away from having a PHEV and will undoubtedly have to buy this off-brand plugin lawnmower.

I’ll say this though, when gasoline hits $5 a gallon (or more, God forbid) then demand will be so high that in November I’ll be lucky to get on a waiting list for the next Prius without paying double the sticker!

UPDATE 5:41pm: I bought the Neuton and the dealership had charged the battery so I tried it out when I got home (and my 13 year old son begged to use it and he did most of the mowing…sure hope THAT excitement lasts!). It works MUCH better than I thought it would and the second battery I purchased means I’ll have zero worries of running out of juice. This is a great little product.