Investing in Battery-powered tools… are they worth it?

Back in 2019, we made our move into going electric, starting with the Stihl HLA 85. First impressions… we were expecting to be let down if  I’m being honest, battery technology is up and coming but it is not yet mainstream so the assumption due to the lack of experience we expected a lack of quality and robustness. Damn, were we wrong! It was strong, the battery lasted and it triumphed through all our hedging tasks of the day. So the big questions:

Battery: With the Stihl HLA 85 we find as a team of 2 working on hedging all-day 2 batteries will last, as a solo operator even just one battery will last. Note, that is based on hedging followed by doing all the clearing to finish off, if you are doing a very light maintenance cut that allows for most of the debris to be blown under the hedge you’ll want another battery.
Durability:
We’ve had the hedge cutter (and have purchased more since) for 2 years now, the only thing we’ve had to do is a couple of warranty works on the head and a small job to fix some wiring but that is it, the only maintenance is sharpening the blades. Trust us that we have not gone easy on them either, we have put them to the test, regular maintenance trims, heavy cuttings on annual trims, large conifer projects in the pouring rain that English weather can bring us.
Reach:
the HLA 85 extends to 3.5m tall, so an operator between 5’6 & 6’0 can comfortably trim up to 4.5m without a ladder. The MASSIVE advantage to the battery power is that with no engine you can have the unit up near your head or resting against your stomach with no issues, long gone are the burns and fumes you get from 2-stroke engines. The battery tools are much lighter as well, with great benefits for the arms and shoulders, allowing you to crack on all day long without the weight of the 2-stroke.
There are more benefits, we’ll get into those shortly. The HLA 85 had such a strong impression that we invested in an entire battery set up, given our company ethos and Mission it suited perfectly, but really the choice was not difficult nor a sacrifice.

Our set-up became: 

Stihl HLA 85 Telescopic Hedge cutter,
Stihl FSA 85 Strimmer
Stihl HSA 86 Hedge cutter
Stihl BGA 85 Blower
5 AP200 batteries
We still used a petrol mower, we’ll leave that discussion for another day.
The hedge cutter, strimmer, and blower had much the same impact for us as the HLA 85. We were all blown away and the benefits were quickly adding up. Let’s get into the overall benefits.
Weight: We touched on this with the HLA 85, but that benefit is carried through all the equipment, the battery tools are so light in comparison to 2-stroke, it makes for lighter work and less strain on the operator.
Noise: Of course there is no engine rambling and vibrating through your hands and fumes burning down your throat, just the smooth and quiet tone of the equipment working. This has been a massive benefit to our clients as well, especially those in particularly noise-sensitive areas, care homes, peaceful neighbourhoods and such. The reduced noise makes for a much more peaceful experience for our clients and team.
Running costs: The all-important question for any business, we saw our running cost declined by more than 80% in fuel and repairs on power tools. Admittedly that cost will have a lot to do with where you get your electricity and the cost of it, but even on a terrible tariff, you would be better off.
Throttle: As easy as switching on a light bulb, no really! Ever been on a ladder awkwardly (but safely) reaching out to get the last bits done on a hedge and just as you lean back to eye-up to your finish the engine cuts out and you have to awkwardly try to pull the cord to get it going again?… personally, I always found that a massive pain, especially with temperamental engines that cut out frequently. That’s history for our team, simply come off the throttle and go back on when you’re ready. This comes into its own second and third benefit with time and communication. Because of the ease with the throttle and no pull cord when a client or pedestrian approaches to talk it’s just a swift instant silence as you come off the throttle and engage with them, just like with a teammate; when working together and discussing your work it is easy to get each other’s attention as you’re not shouting over the engine and you crack on straight away without fiddling with the pull cord again. Overall, saving so much time in those lost seconds and minutes every day, a compound that over the year and there are days of work recovered.
Fueling, not fueling: No matter how careful we try to be, there was always that little bit of spillage when refueling, it was a pain if it got on to client property and stank the van out… another issue of the past. This again is another time-saving exercise, time isn’t spent refilling, just switch the battery and you’re good to go. Even swifter if you have a handy bag or holder for the batteries on larger sites to take them with you. You can use the backpack batteries but the cost per minute is most efficient with the AP200. Depending on how you manage your team there is another benefit here; for us, we’re only a small team but have found simplicity in that the teams can return and put the batteries on charge as they unload at the end of the day. By the time the last person finishes they’re charged ready for the morning, or a manager takes them home to finish up. We no longer have to make fueling trips or send the team out to a station on their round.
Repairs: Battery tools have fewer moving parts with less likelihood of breaking, as a result, we’ve found the tools spend more (much more) time out in gardens earning us profit rather than in the workshop being repaired.
Of course, there are downsides, we need to be honest in our review.
Really, there are no downsides to the hedge cutter, these are all maintenance tools and should be treated as such, with that in mind we do keep 2-stroke hedge cutters for heavy-duty clearance work, 1. Because we’d prefer them to take the abuse of such harsh works that can have unpredictable metal wires and contaminants within them. 2. The 2-stroke has such greater power for getting through thicker growth, although you will be blown away with what the battery hedge cutters can cut through.
The downsides manifest more with the other tools.
Blower:
Power, again though, this is more down to using it for the appropriate works, for your regular maintenance round in smaller areas the battery blower is perfect and holds the benefits listed above. For larger gardens you do want that extra power, so we have a Stihl BR800 for those jobs.
Duration, unfortunately, the battery blower has a weakness in that with the AP200 you’ll get half an hour or so of blowing before it runs out, for a maintenance round that is generally fine when our teams go out with 5 batteries for the day, but through the Autumn and winter on leaf clearance jobs you’ll get nowhere so do bare in mind.
Strimmer:
The largest downsides come in the strimmer.
Power and duration are much like the blower, but again on maintenance round the strengths are greater, for a clearance job keep a 2-stroke at your yard handy. And let’s think here, as the technology advances and becomes more efficient a single battery will be able to power the tools for much longer and even come down in cost so a temporary downside.
The head is THE BIGGEST FRUSTRATION. Something must have gone wrong at the Stihl product design office, they had really cracked it with the strimmer heads, but for the battery range, they took a turn in the wrong direction. Changing cord is incredibly difficult and fiddly, it almost adds on more time rethreading than what is saved by not pulling a cord and the ware it receives has become much worse than what you would get with the 2-stroke heads. Please, Stihl team, if you are reading please please please swap the heads around or give us an explanation as to why it has been designed that way, or a tutorial on how it can be rethreaded with ease.
We honestly do think that Stihl has made such exceptional work of the battery range that they didn’t want them to sell too well just yet, so to create a bit of a more even score they put the ‘alternative’ head of the battery strimmer.
Overall, for regular maintenance round the battery range from Stihl is exceptional and we would recommend you move over yesterday! Make the investment and trust us, you will not look back. Just be sure to keep a few of the old 2-stroke tools for those heavy-duty works (for now).
We hope your experience with the battery range is just as good as ours and if you want to get in touch with us please drop an email to enquiries@bloomfieldss.co.uk or give us a call on 020 3150 3195

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