Hedge trimmers

Battery power continues to drive the market for new machines but is there still a place for petrol models? Sally Drury finds out.

Battery: 536LiHD70X 36V trimmer has a high-torque motor and pivoting rear handle - image: Husqvarna
Battery: 536LiHD70X 36V trimmer has a high-torque motor and pivoting rear handle - image: Husqvarna

The birds have built their nests and are sitting on their eggs. Soon they will be busy feeding the young and then teaching them to fly. Now is not the time to whizz up and down with a hedge trimmer. But before you know it, the birds will have flown and there will be a rush to tidy up the growth and restore hedges to their function and beauty. When that time comes, what type of trimmer will you use?

"The hedge trimmer market has seen an increased emphasis on battery in recent years, more so than other product categories. Due to the nature of hedge trimming and the constant manoeuvring that goes with it, users are recognising the many benefits that battery brings — especially when you consider that there are no emissions, the products are lower in weight, produce less vibration and emit much lower noise levels," says Husqvarna UK category manager Andrew Lees.

"The lower noise levels are particularly important because this allows battery machines to be used in noise-sensitive areas where petrol machines may not be permitted during normal working hours. Our battery powered machines offer petrol-equivalent performance despite being lower in weight. All these benefits combined make the products the ideal solution for professional applications."

Professional petrol machines

So is there still room in the market for petrol machines? Lees believes so. "Whilst still more people than ever are learning about the benefits of battery in 2017, there is still a place for robust professional petrol machines that offer power and a long product life. Our professional petrol machines, which feature powerful X-Torq engines, are ideal for demanding professional work."

Husqvarna’s new petrol machine for 2017, the 226HD60S, is suitable for heavy-duty agricultural, horticultural and professional use. Priced at £460 including VAT, this well-balanced, double-sided professional-use two-stroke hedge trimmer has an advanced and powerful X-Torq engine and heavy-duty gearbox. The gear components have been developed for long life under tough conditions. The adjustable rear handle facilitates cutting the sides and tops of hedges, while the high-performance blade set, in combination with a 4,100-cuts-per-minute blade speed, provides a high output. This model also has a fuel pump for easy starting, while "LowVib" reduces vibration levels to allow all-day use.

Other new two-stroke models this year include the HYT2622-3 from Hyundai and the Cobra HT62C (below). The latter, with a retail price of £169.99, is a 22cc two-stroke model with double-sided blades, 28mm tooth spacing, blade tip protector and twist grip handles for access at all angles.

Li-ion power

But Li-ion power brings most news. Husqvarna has developed the 536LiHD70X. Costing £350 including VAT but excluding battery and charger, this powerful yet lightweight and well-balanced 36V professional-use hedge trimmer has a 70cm double-sided blade. The high-torque professional motor, in combination with high power-to-weight batteries, allows maximum use of working time. The pivoting rear handle makes it easier to cut both vertically and horizontally.

Both the product and the batteries are designed for all-weather use, ensuring that you can keep working no matter what the conditions. The Li-ion battery provides long-lasting power and top-class performance while the "savE" feature allows the operator to choose between normal and economy running depending on conditions — giving maximum power or maximum runtime. This model also has an intuitive keypad.

Expected this summer is the Husqvarna 536LiHE3 (£325 including VAT but excluding battery and charger). This battery powered professional-use pole hedge trimmer will reach up to 3.5m and provides a blade speed of 4,000 cuts/min. With low noise levels it is suited to use in residential areas, around hotels and hospitals as well as other noise-sensitive sites. It also has remote control angle adjustment and comfortable handles.

Also expected this summer are the Stihl HSA94R and HSA94T. Powered by Stihl AP batteries or AR backpack batteries and weighing from 3.7kg, they feature rotating handles. The R model (60cm or 75cm with 38mm spacing) has a lower blade speed that, combined with high torque, makes it suited to pruning back years’ of growth, while the T model (50cm, 60cm or 75cm with 30mm spacing) is designed for trimming annual growth and more precise cuts on ornamental and leafy hedges. Both have three-stage stroke rate adjustment. Retail prices start from £445. Due in the spring is the AR 1000 backpack battery with working times up to 380 minutes.

Twin-battery system

When Makita introduced more grounds care tools powered by twin 18V Li-ion batteries last autumn it included the DUH551Z Twin 18V LXT hedge trimmer that, like the other tools in the twin 18V range, delivers 36V performance. Many professionals already use compatible Makita 18V Li-ion batteries that can be used to generate 36V energy.

"By harnessing the power of two 18V batteries on one machine, the overall power amperage produced is actually higher than that of the single 36V battery," points out Makita business development manager Mark Earles. The DUH551Z is priced at £336 + VAT.

The 550mm DUH551Z hedge trimmer, with double-sided blade running up to 1,800 strokes per minute, will cut branches up to 18mm in diameter. It has five alternative handle positions and variable speed control.

EGO now has two lengths of hedge trimmer in its range of 56V Li-ion garden products. The existing 61cm machine is now joined by the shorter 51cm unit with an articulating feature that rotates 45° and 90° left and right to help get at hard-to-reach areas. The new model also has an extended 33mm blade gap — 11mm more than the 61cm model — while load speed is increased from 3,000 to 3,600rpm.

Both EGO trimmers feature dual-action laser-cut diamond-ground blades for the clean, precise cuts needed for healthy growth. They are powered by EGO’s 56V Li-ion battery, available as 2Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah or 7.5Ah. All batteries across the brand are interchangeable and boast "keep cool" cell technology. The new model has a retail price of £219 excluding battery and charger.

New from Wolf Garten is the 72V Li-ion Power 55H. It has a runtime of more than 60 minutes, a 55cm blade with 26mm spacings, five working positions from the swivelling handle and weighs 4.5kg including battery. RRP is £299.99 ? including battery and charger.

But perhaps you need more than a hedge trimmer? Battery powered units have the advantage of one battery fitting many tools, so you only need buy a body if you already are kitted out with battery and charger. If you want versatility with petrol power, you need a split-shaft unit.

Makita’s new hi-tech four-stroke MM4 engine is at the heart of its EX2650LH brushcutter. Yes, it is a brushcutter, but it has attachments. This means that one minute you could be trimming grass around trees and picnic benches, the next decimating dense vegetation, cultivating soil, pruning branches or cutting the hedge. This is a grounds-care machine for maintenance contractors, major property owners and tool hire operations.

The new MM4 engine bristles with design innovations said to deliver more horsepower, more torque and more reliability than the same capacity two-stroke motor, while at the same time dramatically reducing exhaust emissions, cutting fuel consumption, lowering noise and limiting vibration.

Technically the Makita MM4 is an advanced design. Importantly, for reliability and long service intervals, it has a pressurised lubrication system. The wet sump has a baffled pick-up and the crankcase pressure generated by the piston movement is harnessed to pump the lubricant around the oil galleries through
non-return valves. This pressurised system means the machine can be used at any angle without oil starvation damaging the engine.

Four-stroke combustion engines deliver their muscle power, or torque, over a much wider engine speed range, whereas two-strokes need to run at maximum rpm. This more controlled engine speed also slashes fuel consumption because the engine does not need to run at maximum throttle all the time.

Lower fuel consumption

"Fuel consumption can be 40% less than an equivalent capacity two-stroke. With ever increasing fuel costs, this becomes even more attractive. By saving the high cost of the oil additive required for a two-stroke engine, and the lower consumption, overall running costs can be as much as 60% lower over a three-year period," says Earles.

Exhaust emissions can be 55-80% lower from the MM4 engine, the four-stroke principle enabling clean-burn cylinder combustion to ensure the unleaded fuel, without oil additive, is totally ignited for maximum energy and non-polluting exhaust output. This engine meets emissions regulations including the US and EU Stage 3 where the 24.5cc engine emissions level is nearly 50% below the regulation standard. Lower running revs also mean less vibration, protecting the operator from the risks of hand/arm vibration.

The EX2650LH has a fuel tank capacity of 0.6 litres and, thanks to the compact and lightweight MM4 engine, weighs just 4.6kg. A loop handle with rubberised soft grip is intended to give comfortable control.

The shaft tube of the attachments simply slides into the shaft tube of the motor drive unit and the driveshaft automatically mates with that of the attachment. The EX2650LH is priced at £336 + VAT and the hedge trimmer a further £390 + VAT.

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