How are hedge trimmers being enhanced?

Long-reach: Stihl has added HLA 56 to lithium-ion compact cordless battery system - image: Stihl
Long-reach: Stihl has added HLA 56 to lithium-ion compact cordless battery system - image: Stihl

Over the past 12 months, I am aware of seven powered hedge trimmers coming to market, and six of them are powered by batteries. It makes you wonder whether petrol has had its day.

"Battery power can now provide all the performance benefits of petrol-powered machines but without any of the noise, fuss or fumes," says EGO marketing director Steve Roskell. "It’s no surprise that the market for battery-powered outdoor power equipment like hedge trimmers is growing. When talking about handheld tools, petrol power means the noise and fumes are even closer to the user’s head. Battery is quieter and cleaner."

He is right. What’s not to like? Battery tools mean there is no mixing of two-stroke fuel, no filling the tank, no spillages and no buying or storing petrol and oil. There is no effort to get started — just charge and go. When you need to pause operation, restarting is as simple as clutching the trigger.

Vibrations tend to be low and with low noise and zero emissions they are particularly good for working in and around sensitive areas such as nursing homes, schools, residential areas, nature reserves and organic gardens. Weight also tends to be lower than petrol-powered equivalents and by putting the battery on your back the tool becomes even less fatiguing, more manoeuvrable and easier to control.

Alpha range: compact grass trimmer and pole hedge trimmer plus a harness option - image: Pellenc

Greater choice

Increasing the choice of system, two new batteries have been introduced. Pellenc, a well known expert in battery-powered tools for maintaining landscapes, has previously concentrated on backpack batteries, but this year entered the professional onboard battery market with the launch of the Alpha range.

The new range is designed to convert to battery those professionals who continue to be hesitant about abandoning their petrol-powered tools. The Alpha range also provides a tool that is always ready to use and compact, and has the advantage of giving the user the choice to fit the battery onboard or into a new harness.

Alpha includes two new 43.2V batteries — the P260 (6Ah) and P520 (12Ah). The Helion Alpha hedge trimmer, along with the Excelion Alpha grass trimmer, uses the new 260 and 520 batteries and is engineered for precision work on hedges or shrubs, and especially for hard, dry wood. The pole hedge trimmer has a cutter bar that combines an increased thickness of 2.25mm and a 33mm tooth opening with strength to enable both pruning and trimming actions.

The P260 battery weighs 2.6kg and takes 30 minutes to charge, while the P520 weighs 3.6kg and has a charging time of one hour.

Tested in the field by landscapers, the onboard battery lasted for six hours with the normal work breaks and tool stoppages. The motor on the Helion Alpha hedge trimmer offers three different working speeds and is 100% waterproof to provide safety. Other features include a new design of cutter bar orientation and hand grip systems to provide better balance and working visibility.

Last autumn, Stihl introduced a new generation of PRO 36V batteries that not only offer higher capacity over previous units but also feature a new-look orange front for increased visibility. Designed as direct replacements for previous versions, the AP 100 and AP 200 allow for up to 25% more runtime when used in conjunction with Stihl PRO cordless tools.

Despite the increase in capacity, both batteries remain the same weight as their predecessors (0.8kg and 1.2kg respectively), ensuring that professionals can use the tools for longer while keeping the overall system weight to a minimum.

As per Stihl’s existing battery range, the new generation of AP batteries can be used in the rain due to integrated humidity cell protection and four green LEDs indicate the charge level.

Professional grade: 522HD60X - image: Husqvarna

Compact cordless

For this trimming season, Stihl is expanding its lithium-ion compact cordless battery system with the launch of a new long-reach hedge cutter. The Stihl HLA 56 has a total length of 2.1m, allowing users to cut up to a height of more than 4m from the ground — ideal for tackling conifers and laurels without using steps or assembling scaffolding.

The teeth on the 45cm double-sided blades are spaced 30mm apart and have droplet-shaped ends to guide material into the cutters. To help reach difficult areas, the cutter head can be adjusted through seven settings from -45° to +90° to offer the capability of cutting both overhead and vertically.

As with all lithium-ion compact cordless tools from Stihl, the HLA 56 is lightweight — weighing in at just 3.8kg — and it is balanced for comfort even when used for long periods. The inclusion of a handle
is intended to give users greater control of the tool, which is especially important when reaching for higher branches. The bade stroke rate is 2,800 per minute and vibration levels are recorded at 1.5m/s2 left and 1.5m/s2 right. The tool-only price is around £200 including VAT.

When it comes to transport and storage, the shaft is designed to be separated to make the tool more compact. A bracket on the back of the body allows it to be stored on a wall or hung from a tool cage. Power comes from a 36V battery and, when used with the recommended Stihl AK 20 battery, the hedge trimmer has a runtime of 100 minutes. For higher capacity, the AK 30 battery gives up to 120 minutes of cutting. The battery can, of course, be interchanged with other products in Stihl’s compact cordless range, including chainsaws, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers and lawnmowers.

Last autumn, Stihl also launched a new cordless KombiEngine, the lightest in the range, which is compatible with not only all current Stihl KombiTools but also four new Kombi attachments. Weighing only 3.2kg for the powerhead and shaft, the new KMA 130 R boasts high torque and low vibration, and is 800g lighter than its petrol alternative — the KM 94 RC-E.

Used with the AR backpack batteries or the AP battery belt, the KMA 130 R utilises three power levels to enhance energy efficiency and is ideally suited to work in applications in noise-sensitive areas. With low vibration levels it can be used comfortably for prolonged periods of time.

In addition to the existing seven KombiTools, the new KombiEngine can be used with four new lighter-weight Kombi attachments, including the HT-KM pole pruner, HL-KM 0° hedge trimmer, HL-KM 145° hedge trimmer and FH-KM 145° scrub cutter — all of which are suited to professional use and are best suited to power from Stihl’s AR 1000 backpack battery.

Single-speed HT2410E could appeal to people starting in garden maintenance - image: Ego Power+

Commercial trimmer

For professional use, EGO Power+ has introduced the 75cm HTX7500 commercial hedge trimmer. Joining the existing 65cm HTX6500 commercial trimmer, the new model, having 33mm tooth spacing, is intended to tackle the toughest of hedges while offering greater coverage to speed work. A tip protector is fitted to enhance the life of the double-sided blades, which are made from laser-cut steel with diamond-ground edges. Power for the single-speed motor is provided by what Ego says is the "petrol-matching" BAX1500 commercial battery, giving a runtime of up to 380 minutes. The stroke rate of the dual action blades is 3,600 per minute and vibration is recorded at 2.9m/s2 left and 3.5m/s2 right. Weight is 4kg and the RRP is £369 including VAT.

A new domestic model from Ego is the HT2410E 61cm trimmer. With an RRP of £159 including VAT, it could appeal to those starting out in garden maintenance. A single-speed model, the unit carries laser-cut, diamond-ground double blades with 22mm tooth gap and protected with a blade tip stop. Runtime with Ego’s 2.5Ah battery is 75 minutes, but upgrading to the 7.5Ah will see 225 minutes of work from a single charge. Weight is 3kg, the no-load stroke rate is 2,600 per minute and vibration levels are recorded at
2m/s2 left and 1.5m/s2 right.

There is also a new battery-powered hedge trimmer from Echo Power Tools. The HT-58V2AH is a 58V trimmer that boasts the professional build expected of the brand’s tools. It is lightweight, has a maintenance-free brushless motor and a runtime of 90 minutes. The standard 2Ah lithium-ion battery takes just 30 minutes to fully charge. A 4Ah battery is also available. Both will fit other tools in the Echo 58V range, including grass trimmer. At the business end, the blades are 610mm-long, double reciprocating and self-sharpening. Anti-jam technology has been incorporated for continuous cutting.

Complete range

Husqvarna has a complete range of battery-powered tools for commercial use but last autumn introduced a new petrol hedge trimmer for anyone not yet convinced that battery power is the way forward or facing a particularly tough job. The 522HD60X is a 21.7cc professional-grade unit developing 0.6kW of power and designed for heavy-duty use.

It is an X-Torq engine, so despite being two-stroke boasts a significant reduction in harmful emissions while increasing fuel efficiency. A fuel pump is intended for hassle-free starts, even on cold mornings.

The 522 carries 60cm double-sided blades with 28mm tooth spacing and is capable of producing 4,100 strokes per minute. The unit weighs in at 4.9kg. Features include long-life gear components, two-stage air filter and adjustable, swivelling rear handle. RRP is £600 including VAT, but search around and you could find it offered for as low as £510. A 21.7cc model with 75cm blades is also available. 

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