No fumes, no mess, low noise and, in the majority of cases, low vibration levels. No wonder the latest generation of battery powered kit is proving popular. The desire to be seen to be green while maintaining the outdoor environment, and the need for operators to work in pleasant conditions, continue to drive development in the handheld equipment market and particularly for hedge trimmers.
Contractors, local authorities, estate managers and professional gardeners are already enjoying the benefits of battery power. Hackney Borough Council's parks and green spaces team has been using Makita battery powered line trimmers, blowers and hedge trimmers after dropping traditional petrol machines on health, safety and environmental grounds.
As well as eliminating exposure to fumes and the risks of ground contamination from spilt petrol and oil, switching to Makita's cordless 36V tools has eliminated the vibration risks that can harm staff with long-term hand/arm vibration injuries such as white finger and joint and circulation problems. The borough council's policy is to remove all petrol power from local operations by 2020.
This year Makita has introduced more battery tools for grounds care and horticultural operations. The twin 18V lithium-ion batteries powering these tools are designed to deliver 36V performance.
By harnessing the power of two 18V batteries on one machine, the overall power amperage produced is actually higher than that of a single 36V battery. Products have been taken up by professionals and landscapers who, in many cases, already have a number of the batteries that they use on other Makita power tools.
Tools benefiting from the new twin battery range include a 550mm hedge trimmer. The DUH551H LXT has a double-sided blade that will run up to 1,800 strokes per minute and cut branches up to 18mm in diameter. It has five handle positions and variable speed control. Weight including batteries is 5.1kg.
Two lengths of hedge trimmer are now available in the range of 56V lithium-ion powered garden products from EGO Power+. The range previously consisted of a 61cm option but this has now been joined by a shorter 51cm model. Easy to use, these and other battery powered hedge trimmers might be considered suitable for use by volunteer workers helping in gardens and estates or as an entry-level machine for anyone setting up a garden maintenance round.
As well as the new length, EGO Power+ has introduced an articulating handle that rotates to 45 degs and 90 degs, both left and right, to help trim hard-to-reach areas. The new model also features an extended 33mm blade gap - 11mm more than the 61cm model - and load speed is increased from 3,000 to 3,600rpm.
Both of the hedge trimmers boast EGO's dual-action, laser-cut, diamond-ground blades for that all-important precision and cleanness of cut needed to promote healthy new growth.
EGO European marketing director Steve Roskell says: "The 2015 launch season showed us that gardeners are desperately seeking an alternative to petrol and electric products. The popularity of our range immediately showed us that our 56V products offer just that. We've introduced a shorter model to the hedge trimmer range as we want to make the range accessible for people with hedges of all sizes."
EGO's 56V Lithium-ion batteries are available as 2Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah and 7.5Ah. All batteries are interchangeable across the entire EGO product range and feature the brand's patented arc design and "keep cool" cell technology. The 4.0Ah battery takes just 30 minutes to fully charge using the rapid charger. Prices for the hedge trimmers, available from Henton & Chattell dealers nationwide, start from £129 including VAT.
High-end domestic and entry-level hedge trimmers have been added to Emak's growing range of cordless products. The units can be run on the latest BA 4Ah battery, giving a 40 per cent longer runtime than the 2Ah version. An LED indicator shows the level of residual charge in the battery.
This year also saw Honda enter the fast-growing battery powered lawn and garden market. Its range now includes a 56V hedge trimmer with 61cm laser-cut, diamond-ground, dual-action steel blades. A runtime of up to two hours is expected from the 4Ah battery, manufactured by Chervon, and there is a choice of two chargers.
Honda Motor Europe power product director Pierre Vallet says: "While many customers will appreciate the capability, performance and power of petrol powered handhelds, more and more are starting to see the convenience and usability of battery powered products, making this a natural move for us to extend our product range to a wider customer base."
He adds: "With the growing trend towards battery powered products in general, this is the perfect time for us to enter the market and we plan to grow the range further in the future." The product line-up from Honda currently stands at hedge trimmer, grass trimmer and leaf blower.
In all, the year has been a bumper spell for the introduction of cordless hedge trimmers for professional use. Bosch brought out the GHE range. Lightweight and robust, thanks to a magnesium chassis, the range includes both roughing and trimming models with Swiss-made carbon blades. The double-sided units have 60cm and 70cm blades, and are powered by 36V batteries. Battery belts are available to make the tools even lighter in the hand.
The 2016 season also saw Husqvarna introduce the 536LiHD70X, featuring a commercial-grade 36V motor and 70cm diamond-ground laser blades boasting 4,000 cuts per minute. With the same streamline shape, the 536LiHD60X is a smaller model with 60cm blades. Vibration levels are recorded at 2.3/2.5m/s2 and 1.6/2.5m/s2 respectively. Runtimes for these models can be increased by engaging the "save" mode to give a lower motor speed when trimming younger, less dense material. Prices are from £291.67 + VAT.
A recent introduction under the Pellenc brand, the Helion Compact 2 hedge trimmer is supplied in the UK by Etesia. With increased power for pruning and finishing work, it has a fast connector system for quick connection and disconnection, a retractable trigger, interchangeable blades and is water protected to IP54. A swivel head is available on the pole models.
Pellenc is well known for its backpack batteries that give users more freedom of arm movement as well as significantly reducing the weight of handheld products. Stihl outdoor power tools also appeal to professional users, in part because of the ability to carry the AR900 "all-day" battery on the operator's back. More new products are expected from Stihl in the near future.
Despite the focus of attention being on battery power, petrol products are also developing. FGM Claymore has introduced two new Tanaka models - TCH 22ECP2 (66) and TCH 22ECP2 (78). Both have 22cc engines producing 0.65kW, but the blade lengths are 65cm and 78cm respectively. Units are priced at £499 including VAT.
New Echo petrol models will help you keep your feet on the ground
The latest commercial petrol models from Echo include the HCA-265ES LW long-reach and HCAS-236ES LW mid-reach articulating hedge cutters - ideal for taller and wider hedges where you want to keep your feet safely on the ground rather than relying on ladders and platforms.
The HCA-265ES LW has an overall length of 2.42m and is fitted with laser-cut, precision-ground blades for a 50.4cm cutting length. They are nickel-plated to stay sharp for longer and have a 35mm pitch for tackling a variety of hedging.
Fitted with an ultra-light magnesium gear case and featuring an aluminium support bar, the weight of the new model is reduced to 6.5kg. Its predecessor had an aluminium gear case and weighed in at 7kg. A soft-grip handle provides manoeuvrability and control.
The adjustment system on the cutting head has also been improved. Now, using one hand, the blades can be angled through 135 degs in nine set positions, making the machine suitable for both tall and wide hedges. The cutting head can be folded back for transport and storage.
Power comes from a Stage 2 low-emissions compliant 25.4cc engine (0.89kW output) with Echo Easy Start for quick, effortless pulling over. The fuel tank capacity is 0.5 litres.
The mid-reach HCAS-236ES LW also features a magnesium gear case for lightness. Again aimed at the professional and commercial markets, this hedge cutter has a greaseable gear case, vertical fuel filler, tool-less air filter cover and commercial-grade air filter for improved filtration. The engine is a premium-grade 21.2cc Echo unit giving an output of 0.71kW. This model also benefits from the Easy Start system and the fuel tank holds 0.44 litres.
Like the HCA-265ES LW, it also features one-handed adjustment of the cutting head, but this time only rotating from 0-90 degs. The double reciprocating blades give a 51.9cm cutting length and are laser-cut and nickel-plated, with a 30mm pitch. The dry weight of this hedge cutter is 5.9kg.
Echo tools come with a five-year domestic warranty or two-year warranty for professional use.