For decades, thousands of Britons have relied on the trusty petrol-powered mower to maintain a neat lawn.
But plans to introduce a more eco-friendly petrol may mean its days are numbered, as one of Britain’s leading brands, a supplier to the Royal household, plans a switch to electricity.
New E10 petrol, which has 10 per cent ethanol content, can damage lawnmower engines, with some manufacturers warning against its use.
The petrol will appear on forecourts next month and is being introduced in a bid to reduce the amount of fossil fuel needed and cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Lawnmower dealers and manufacturers said the move might accelerate a growing trend for consumers to opt for battery-powered or electric alternatives.
E5 petrol will still be available to buy at the super unleaded pump, but it might become less widely sold and will be more expensive, according to motoring experts.
E5 petrol can also be problematic for lawnmower engines if left to sit for more than a few weeks, manufacturers warned, but the problem is more acute with E10.
E10 fuel – from crops to cars
Allett Mowers, a Stafford-based business dating back to 1965, makes premium mowers to supply to football clubs and country houses. It said it planned to phase out petrol-powered lawnmowers by 2025.
Austin Jarrett, the company’s managing director, said electric mowers were quieter, pollution-free and required little maintenance.
He said: “We’re already up to 50 per cent of unit sales is electric, our two biggest-selling products are now electric, and our advertised claim is that we expect to not be manufacturing any petrol engine lawnmowers by 2025.
“We think the customers will choose that because the product is a superior product when it’s driven by electric.”
The company’s website warned customers that ethanol in petrol “causes corrosion to fuel components and attracts water”.
It added: “It can block your capillaries in your carburettor, causing all sorts of engine issues. Its corrosive properties can erode your engine away.”
Gary Whitney, managing director of lawnmower manufacturer Stiga, which also has a growing battery-powered division, said he thought the fuel change might push customers to opt for electric or battery-powered alternatives, which were increasingly affordable.
“Because it’s got so much more publicity, this change, I can imagine it having an impact on some people’s buying decision, maybe just accelerating a change from petrol to battery,” he said.
The company’s lawnmowers can be used with E10 fuel, he said, as long as the engine is not left to sit with fuel inside for long periods of time.
“The big problem will come when they go to E15 – 15 per cent ethanol will really start to give performance issues on petrol engines.
“There’s no reason why they shouldn’t use [E10], [but] it’s better for them to use a premium unleaded,” he said.
A fuel stabiliser could be added to the fuel, which would prevent it from attracting water, he added.
Engine issues cropping up
Greenkeepers, who maintain golf courses, were also increasingly switching to battery-powered equipment, the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association said, though diesel has historically been the main fuel used in that industry.
Lawnmower dealers said customers were already frustrated at maintenance issues caused by existing E5 fuel, which can also damage engines if left to sit for more than a few weeks.
Many dealers recommend gardeners use specialist alkylate fuel, but this is more expensive than forecourt petrol.
Mark Tasker, director of Maelor Farm & Garden Ltd in Wrexham, said: “People, I think, will be convinced to buy more battery once this E10 goes up.
“I do mention to them what’s going to happen later in the year when they increase the amount of ethanol they’re putting in the fuel.
“I’ve sold quite a bit of battery stuff. A lot of people don’t want the hassle of adding petrol and starting it up any more.”
Andrew Brown, director of George Browns in Leighton Buzzard, said demand had doubled for battery powered machines over the past few years.
“Everything’s battery, regardless of that [petrol change] really, but that might push them even more,” he said.
“We’re looking at all forms, from big contractors – especially if they’re doing schools and stuff like that – to councils and to domestic customers. The big push, and it is a huge push, is the battery machines, which are becoming better and better.”