It is a very capable piece of kit, which offers a great many advantages over traditional petrol powdered mowers.
Some of these advantages are discussed in our blog about risk assessments, fumes, and battery power.
Before moving on to look at issues such as build, quality of cut and ease of operation, lets tackle the elephant in the room. Battery life, and ask the question can battery power ever replace petrol for the professional plant enthusiast?
The answer is a resounding YES.
We have been using the STIHL AP 300 36V, 6.0 ah Lithium-Ion battery.
A fully charged battery, with the mower in eco mode, is delivering in the regions of 45 – 55 minutes run time, with an average run. time in real life of around 50 minutes.
With a width of cut of 46cm this has given ample battery life to cut even the largest of our clients lawns, even when the grass has been damp or a little longer than we would have liked.
The eco mode is superb, the mower almost instantly revs up when cutting longer or wetter grass as additional power is required; dropping back to lower power output when this boost is not required.
Whilst talking of elephants in rooms, I am old enough to remember the early days of battery mowers, (the old lead acid batteries on an Atco) which were so lacking in power to be worse than useless. The RMA 448 TC however has power by the bucket load, more than matching similar petrol machines.
Key Features of the RMA 448 TC
46 cm Cutting Width
25mm – 75mm Cutting Height, with 6 settings
Sound Level in use 96DB
Drive 1 Speed
55l grass box
Mulching? There is an attachment to turn this into a mulching mower
The AP300 Battery arrived fully charged and will recharge in 30 minutes in the AL 500 quick charger, or approx 4 hours in a standard charger.
With the high speed charger and one battery on charge and one in the mower, one could mow all day without interruption, however without a cup holder, there is no chance of more then 2 hours without a cuppa!
A particularly useful design feature is the additional slot for a spare battery, which saves spare batteries getting damaged in the back of the van or on the trailer.
The RMA 448TC comes with a metal STIHL high-lift blade, this is shaped to help reduce turbulence and move the clippings into the grass box. It has proved to be resilient to date, with only slight notching from the odd stone.
The grass box at 55l, with the usual compression of clippings, is generous and offers a realistic capacity to prevent unnecessary stops for emptying .
The top of the grass box hinges upwards for ease of emptying and there is an indicator to show when the box s full.
STIHL make quite a big thing about the design of the grass box, and it has to be said that the aerodynamics of the design mean that at the end of a few hours of mowing there are no clippings on ankles, socks or jeans, which is a welcome feature.
This is a very robust piece of kit. The handle with its unique mono arm design was an initial worry, could this be designed and manufactured to stand up to the stresses and strains of being used day in day out? The answer is, if anything it is over-engineered, and is both strong and sturdy.
The body is plastic, or Polymer PP to be more accurate, it has stood up to being loaded on and off the trailer, into the boots of cars and to general rough life of general gardening use with no problems, however only time will tells it is as able to withstand impact as well as the more usual aluminium body shell of our Honda petrol mowers, which we hope to replace in due course.
It is noted that there is some steel reinforcement in areas which may be abraded during use, and that STIHL claim this material to have a good impact resistance and UV stabilisation.
Adjusting the height of cut
This has to be the niftiest part of this mower, the rear lift handle has a trigger located within it, and one simply squeezes and lifts or drops the mower to achieve the height of cut.
This is incredibly convenient and easy.
However it is also difficult assess the height of cut being set.
After the initial shock that there is no cord to pull, just the magic orange button to press, the mower is light and handles positively in use.
So far so good, however there are a few areas where the mower could be further refined and developed.
For example, while there is very little in the way of vibration, the use of a cushioning material on the handles would increase user comfort.
The other niggle is that the drive kicks in quite quickly, a more gradual engagement would add an elegance of operation, as would the ability to control the forward speed.
We discussed our new mower with customers, who were intrigued by the concept of a battery mower and the green credentials, however they all commented on the lack of the striped finish that we normally achieve. Some customers asked us to continue to use our old mowers on their gardens as they like their lawns striped.
So, we would add the lack of a roller, or a roller as an accessory, is a key niggle.
We really like:
The build quality
The positive handling
The grass collection system
The run time on a charge
The fast recharge time of 30 minutes with the fast charger
The slot for a second battery on the unit
The height adjustable handle
The light weight for loading and unloading
The fact the battery works with other equipment in the range
The eco mode, delivering instant power as it is required
The grass box
The lack of clippings on our trousers after mowing
The lack a roller, (which we understand would cut battery life, but which our customers have asked for)
The lack of a soft start for the drive, along with variable speed.
Our overall rating
We would give this mower an overall score of 9/10.
It is an excellent machine, which is more than capable replacing petrol powered equipment.
We will publish a further long term test review in a few months when we have lived with the machine for longer.
(We would like to thank STIHL for kindly providing an RMA 448 TC for review purposes.)