Ten years ago, when electric lawn mowers were first put to market en masse, very few retailers offered the cleaner, greener option.
Now, a decade later, electric lawn mowers have become more reliable, more capable, and — perhaps most importantly — more affordable. But while the popularity may have grown and the technology improved, one thing hasn't: Then, as now, Exeter's Perkins Lawnmower is offering the latest in green mowing options.
Perkins, a third-generation, Exeter-based family purveyor of lawn equipment and maintenance services, is a business that has literally grown with the technology. It started back in the early 1950s, selling and servicing reel push mowers — the ancient dinosaurs you'd expect to see on the Flintstones and have been relegated to collecting dust in barns and basements.
Even the Perkins logo harkens to this sense of history and change, depicting the profile of a five-blade reel mower along with the company name.
As gas-powered options exploded onto the scene in the 1960s, Perkins expanded its business along with the changing technology, which began to include a versatile range of both push and riding mowers.
Then came the advent of the electric mower in the late '90s. And while Perkins was more than happy to offer the gas-free options, co-owner Keith Perkins said the fervor for cleaner, greener mowers took another decade to truly accelerate.
"When Toro first came out with their battery option 10 years ago, they were really early to the market, and the demand just wasn't there," Perkins said. "A lot of companies had options out there that they took off the shelves, but the last three or four years, the demand has been getting very high, and these options are becoming more and more popular."
Perkins currently offers a few different kinds of electric options. There's the Country Home Products Neuton push mower, which is battery operated and electric. Perkins has been offering this model since it came out nearly a decade ago, and it has quickly grown to become one of their most popular lines.
Perkins also offers the Hustler Zeon, touted as the world's first electric riding lawn mower which is also zero-turn — meaning you can literally stop and change directions on a dime. Though it can require up to 10 hours of charging, once fully juiced the Zeon can mow for up to 90 minutes, or roughly an acre and a half.
According to Perkins, Hustler — another family-owned company headquartered in Kansas — has always been at the forefront of mowing technology (it first introduced the zero-turn mower in 1964). "We like doing business with them because they're family owned and they're always first to market," says Perkins. "So many manufacturers today are publicly traded, huge companies, so it's nice to work with a company that's more focused on the long view and strives to innovate."
It's precisely this long view that Perkins says it uses to set itself apart from competitors. Perkins asks customers to consider options it says are as affordable as standard mowers, but do much less harm to the environment.
Electric mowers are 50 to 75 percent quieter than a standard gas mower, are self-propelled, easily adjust to the desired cutting height, and are much less harmful to the environment. The Department of the Interior's Green Seal Program estimates that electric mowers emit 3,300 times fewer hydrocarbons, 5,000 times less carbon monoxide, one-fifth as much nitrogren oxide, and less than half the carbon dioxide as gas engines.
"More and more customers are coming in specifically to look at battery-powered options," Perkins said. "But we're seeing more people coming in just looking for gas-powered mowers, and when they learn about the electric option — that it's green, has a lower cost of ownership and maintenance, and that it's cost-competitive — they change their minds and walk out with electric mowers."
In April, Perkins Lawnmower joined the Green Alliance, a Seacoast-based "green business union" and individual discount co-op.
At a Glance
Owners: John or Keith Perkins
Address: 91 Epping Road, Exeter
Green Alliance: www.greenalliance.biz