April 28, 2021

Montgomery Department of Transportation Launches Electric Equipment Mowing Pilot Program to Reduce Air and Noise Pollution

A pilot program to deploy its first ever all-electric mowing team has been launched this season by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). The equipment produces zero emissions and is noticeably quieter than traditional gas-powered equipment.

MCDOT will use the pilot program to evaluate the ability of the equipment to perform and experiment with battery charging logistics. The aim of the pilot program is to reduce noise pollution, air pollution and fuel costs. MCDOT will review the efficiency of the equipment following the mowing season to determine if the program will be expanded in future years.

“Electric powered mowing technology will continue to grow and transitioning from gas powered machinery is an integral part of our efforts to combat climate change,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “MCDOT’s transition to all-electric mowing is an important first step and I appreciate their sense of urgency to initiate this pilot program. We will replace all County landscaping equipment with electric powered as soon as possible to reduce carbon emissions and noise pollution.”

MCDOT is responsible for mowing approximately 4,700 acres of County property. One of MCDOT’s nine mowing crews will use the electric equipment exclusively. The electric mowing crew, which will operate in Silver Spring area through October, can be identified by the bright green mower and its accompanying electric blower and trimmer.

The mower is easy to use and has new technology that helps the crew set precise heights for cutting and collects useful data. The electric motor is essentially silent, so the only noise produced by the machine is the sound of the blades cutting the grass. While it looks like a standard mower, its large electric battery makes it weigh 200 pounds more than standard equipment.

The mowing crew reports that the battery backpacks are heavy, but that a heavy backpack with lighter trimmer and blower equipment is much more comfortable to use than gas-powered blowers and trimmers where the hand-held equipment is much heavier and harder on the body. Simple attachment mechanisms between equipment and battery backpacks also allow easier equipment swaps. The mowing crew also reports that the battery-powered blower has much more power than the department’s standard blowers.

The biggest challenge so far has been the limitations of battery life and related ability for the crew to cover the same amount of mowing area as a traditionally outfitted crew. The mowing battery can provide up to four hours of run time from a full charge and currently needs to return to the depot to charge for 12 hours (as opposed to fueling on the go).

The pilot program will allow MCDOT to try different charging configurations and approaches to determine if electric equipment can be effective more widely.

MCDOT Director Chris Conklin visited the mowing crew and tried the equipment on Earth Day.

Videos of Director Conklin, Highway Services Division Chief Richard Dorsey and mowing crew members using the new equipment can be viewed at https://youtu.be/YI3UvCV62ns. Views from the crew can be seen at https://youtu.be/nWBBKc6iiJs.

Drivers should stay alert, be aware of mowing crews and obey temporary lane closures during mowing operations.

For paving, tree, sidewalk, curb/gutter and seasonal activities or to request right-of-way or tree work, follow MCDOT’s Highway Services @MontCo_Highways on Twitter or visit montgomerycountymd.gov/dot-highway.

For ongoing transportation related updates, follow @MCDOTNow on Twitter, visit the department website at montgomerycountymd.gov/mcdot, subscribe to MCDOT news releases or subscribe to MCDOT’s ‘Go Montgomery!’ newsletter.