A The past few years have really seen battery products up their game. Yes, once they were considered to be tools for domestic situations. Now they have the power and the runtime to keep commercial users working all day long. When it comes to hedge trimmers, a big advantage is losing the weight of the engine. Put the battery in a backpack and trimming becomes much less fatiguing.
Natalie Nixon, senior horticulturist at contractor Alaster Anderson Specialist Gardeners, says: "I used to struggle with petrol hedge cutters and that can really affect the quality of the cut. I found that I was getting tired by the end of the day and began to drop the blade. That’s a distant memory since we’ve switched to Pellenc."
Nixon’s priority is a six-acre private garden, designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole, in north London. "We have a lot of grasses, perennials and hedging made up of maple, beech and hornbeam, which all require a lot of ongoing maintenance," she adds.
"What I find really good when we have to cut the hedging is how quiet all the machinery is. I know our client doesn’t like to hear the noise of petrol-powered tools, so using the Pellenc equipment ensures it’s so much quieter, not just for the client and neighbours but also for us as users. It means that we no longer have to use ear defenders."
Q So what developments have there been lately in the battery sector?
A Undoubtedly increasing in popularity, this is currently the sector with all the activity. Stihl’s range of cordless tools and batteries keeps on growing. The choice now includes seven tools and 11 models of hedge trimmers, grass trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws and even a rotary mower and powered-brush floor sweeper. Last year saw the introduction of two new standard hedge trimmers plus a long-reach unit for tall hedges.
Superseding two popular cordless hedge trimmers, the second-generation Stihl 36V HSA 66 (50cm single-sided bar with 30mm tooth spacing) and HSA 86 (60cm double-edged blade and 33mm spacing) look like their predecessors, but a number of key differences add to their performance. Now that both feature a highly efficient brushless EC motor, runtime is increased by 40 per cent and weight is reduced by 400g. Both models can be used by left- or right-handed operators.
Users can expect up to an hour’s operation from a single 100 per cent change of the lowest-capacity Stihl AP 80 battery. Move up to the new AP 180 battery and the runtime extends to 140 minutes. With the latest AR 900 backpack battery, the hedge trimmers will run for up to 11 hours. Furthermore, EC electronics mean both models’ rapid 3,000 per minute stroke rate remains constant under pressure to give a consistent cut, even on bigger branches. Cutter speed is infinitely adjustable via the rear-handle control.
Husqvarna’s new battery series is also intended for professional use. This year sees the company up the runtime on its integrated battery — the BLi 150 offers 40 per cent more than the previous BLi 110 — and it has also entered the backpack sector with models BLi 520X and BLi 940X for those who want to work all day without the need to recharge. The backpacks have an adjustable height/pivoting hip belt and shoulder harness for comfort.
Combining zero emissions with low weight, low noise and low vibration levels, the battery hedge trimmer introduced this year is designed to deliver the same power as you would expect from the company’s petrol machines. Model 536Li HD60X features a pivoting rear handle and, with high torque and a 4,000 per minute blade speed, gives petrol-equivalent performance when powered by the BLi150 integrated battery or one of two new backpack batteries from Husqvarna. Cutting length is 60cm and tooth opening is 30mm.
The connection of the hedge trimmer to the backpack battery is made through a weighted adapter so as not to affect balance. The adapter also features a battery-status indicator. BLi 520X has energy of 520Wh, a battery capacity of 14.4Ah and a charge time of 130mins. Its weight is 5.9kg. For day-long operation, opt for the BLi 940X, boasting energy of 940Wh, a 26.1Ah battery capacity, 235-minute charge time and 6.7kg weight.
Another company to have ventured into the cordless market is Tracmaster, with the 51cm double-sided Camon HT510B.
Q I cut tall hedges. Is there battery kit to help me?
A The first long-reach hedge trimmer available in the Stihl battery range, model HLA 65 literally extends cordless appeal. Trimming tall and wide hedges, the unit has a 2m length giving a reach of up to 3m and the cutting head adjusts through 115° to reach over borders or to top-off high hedges.
The 50cm-long cutter bar will go through branches of up to 26mm in diameter and the EC brushless motor ensures a consistent stroke rate, even under varying load. Runtime is an hour with the AP 80 Li-ion battery, going up to 140 minutes with the AP 180 battery and 660 minutes with the AR 900 backpack battery.
Trimming tall hedges without a ladder, and with no worries over fuel, fumes or noise, is made easier by the Mantis cordless extended-reach trimmer from Schiller Grounds Care UK. Featuring a 15in laser-cut, diamond-ground blade, it also has a 135° articulating head. Variable adjustment gives an overall length of 1.95-2.35m, or a potential reach of 3.3m. Running for an hour off a four-hour charge, the tool is powered by a 24V Li-ion battery, weighs less than 5kg, carries 40cm blades and achieves a maximum cut of 18mm.
Q Are there any new petrol models available?
A At IoG Saltex in Windsor last September, Hyundai entered the UK outdoor power products market with a range of products including a two-stroke 26cc model working on a 40:1 mix and carrying a 72cm bar with 28mm tooth spacing.
From the Camon stable, Tracmaster is now supplying the TJ23 petrol-powered hedge trimmer with 60cm double-sided blade.