By Francis Koster, Ed.D.

electricmower“In one year, a single older mower will pollute as much as 43 new cars each driven 12,000 miles per year,” notes Mr. Bill Atwood, Spokesperson for the South Coast Air Quality Manaement District.  Aiming to reduce emissions from lawn mowers in their state, some California agencies are offering residents a good deal on an electric lawn mower.  The program subsidizes the purchase of a new electric lawn mower because it is cheaper to clean up the air on the front end than it is to pay to clean up the health problems dirty small gas engines cause .

As part of the annual Mow Down Air Pollution program, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD; logo shown below), among others governmental entities in the state, will provide residents a new Neuton rechargeable cordless lawn mower at a heavy discount when they trade in a working gas-powered mower. (Prices differ statewide. The AQMD is charging $100; the SMUD, $189.) The 24-volt Neuton electric mower, with a retail price of $400, is a lot quieter than a typical standard mower and will run for 45 to 60 minutes on a 12-hour charge, according to officials with the AQMD.

The AQMD effort, now in its sixth year, is the largest in the state, according to spokesman Sam Atwood. Southern California residents have exchanged about 4,000 mowers per year through the AQMD, says Atwood, who adds that by the end of 2008, the program will have kept 116 tons smog-forming hydrocarbons out of the air. “In one year, a single older mower will pollute as much as 43 new cars each driven 12,000 miles per year,” notes Atwood. As part of the SMUD’s program, now in its 12th year, residents have bought almost 10,000 electric mowers and emissions have been reduced by 99.5 tons.

mowdownairpollutionEach California agency funds its program differently. The AQMD, for instance, pays for the Mow Down Air Pollution efforts through its Air Quality Investment Program. Find out whether a mower exchange is being offered in your area by checking with the department of environmental protection in your state or a county or local agency.

The AQMD will run seven mower pickups throughout Southern California this spring. People who have preregistered to buy a mower online or by phone drive up to the location with their old mower; someone removes it from their car; and a new boxed Neuton mower is loaded in. “They never have to leave their car and the whole things takes about 10 minutes,” says Atwood.

Essential information: If you’re considering an electric mower, remember that a higher-voltage machine doesn’t guarantee better cutting performance. One group recently tested the 48-volt Craftsman 37048 cordless mower, $400, and the 60-volt/12-amp Remington MPS6017A, $450 (you can use it with or without a cord). the top-rated 24-volt Black & Decker CMM1200 cordless electric outcut both models.