EDITOR’S NOTE: Curious how this lawn mower is performing in its third year? You can! After reading the rest of this article simply select this link to read Solaris Cordless Electric Lawn Mower Review Three Years Later.
We were among the first, if not the first, to write about the new line of solar charged electric battery lawn mowers from Linamar Consumer Products last year. Heck, we even had to tell one of our local TV stations who then did a major story on this energy conservation home product.
Within the past 10 days, we have received requests from our readers for updated information; in fact, they were the ones who had been telling me major changes were made to the Solaris, Epic and Utopia lines (depending on the retailer from whom you make your purchase).
So, with a little investigation and input from the nice folks at Linamar Consumer Products we can now let you know what we have found out.
As far as background, here is what this solar charged lawn mower looked like last year after we purchased our own and test drove it on our front lawn:
While it was generally available in Canada, it had limited availability in the U.S., within the Boston and Seattle areas through Home Depot outlets.
Ok, so what’s changed?
First, for 2009 availability ‘…will be in a large number of HD stores across the US with fairly even coverage.’ by the end of March. It is available right now on Amazon.com, just search for Solaris Lawn Mower (too bad I don’t have a reseller’s account for Amazon ) and is to be available on HomeDepot.com.
As far as the product.
Here is a picture from one of the Linamar Consumer Products web site (with thanks) showing one of the different versions of this product for 2009:
One of the aspects which frustrats me with the version I purchased in 2008 was that I never knew how much more time / energy was left on the batteries. There is now an LED Battery Level Indicator on all the models. Notice in the picture above there is the start mechanism over on the fight part way up the handle.
The batteries are now centered together on top of the middle of the mower vs the rear positioned side-by-side as is the case for my now 1 year old model (see first picture above). This was done in part to provide traction for what is now a front wheel drive self propelled lawn mower. Last year, all of the self propelled product lines were rear wheel drive whereas in 2009 the Solaris is now front wheel drive self propelled while the Epic and Utopica models remain rear wheel drive self propelled.
As I am not going to go out and buy one of these to replace the one I purchased last year; I just don’t have the funds to do that. Therefore, I cannot personally tell you if the moving forward of the batteries reduces the traction of the rear wheeled drive.
What I can tell you is that according to one of my contacts at the company, the two models (front wheel vs rear wheel self propelled) tested with ‘…similar results, so it’s really a matter of personal preference’. As well, another company contact indicated that while the rear wheel drive models may be better on steep hills ( how much better I personally cannot tell you), the front wheel drive model is said to provide superior maneuverability around trees, bushes and flower beds.
As well, speaking of self propelled, that appears to be an option this year on some models.
The batteries look different to me and to others who have been to the product’s web site. However, I have been assured that the batteries are ‘…exactly the same. They fit into the 2009 model a bit differently, but that’s mostly cosmetic’.
And, speaking of the batteries, the product web site and available on-line manuals now show that there is the option to leave the batteries in the battery station on top of the mower to recharge by simply detaching ‘…the cable from the Off-Board charging cradle and plug directly on the mower.’
Lastly, they have also improved their Users Manual; much more detailed and graphically supported than last years.
The engine? The same brushless electric motor from Terra Phase.
With the same solar charging station, a very environmentally friendly lawn mower that will not generate directly or indirectly polluting emissions into the air while you use it or recharge the batteries.
Solar charged or house electrical outlet charged, the mower is still the quietest I have ever heard for a powered (gas or electric) lawn mower.
I hope this helps to answer some of your questions, Cam and Shriap on what’s new in 2009 for the Solaris, Epic and Utopia electric lawn mowers with the optional solar charging station.
To see how our solar charged electric mower performed at the start of its second year with us, simply select this link to our Solaris, Epic, Utopia Lawn Mower – One Year Later article.
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