Hustler Zeon All Electric Mower
Well, I caved in and took the plunge!
In 2013, I purchased an all electric mower.
It is a zero turn riding mower with a 42″ mowing deck.
Before taking the plunge, I searched the web for some intel. What I found were skeptical posts dating back to when the mower was introduced (2009?) and a few posts of dissatisfied customers:
The skeptical posts of the unit were by people who did not actually own a Zeon, their arguments were based mostly on the predicted pitfalls of battery life and assumed lack of power due to the power source. Most of the customers’ complaints were corrected, others did not follow up with how their complaints were handled.
So, what I found was intel, technically . . . it was just not very good/detailed intel. Anyway, I decided that if I were to get a Zeon, I’d be sure to make some posts about my experiences.
My lot is about 1.7 acres. There are trees and some sloped areas. The very back of the lot borders a pond with a sandy soil. When I mow, I find that I don’t usually have several hours at a time to mow. More often than not, I can only work for an hour or two before running kids here/there or tending to something inside. So having a unit that can only mow for 60 – 90 minutes at a time fits my needs. Having my own mower, I intend to mow often so the lawn doesn’t get out of control. I doubt my neighbors expect this of me right now due to my mowing history, but I’ve been borrowing a mower from a neighbor and have always tried to limit my use with it. Long story short, I think cutting the grass more often after only slight growth is a good fit for an electric mower (cutting tall grass takes longer and you won’t be able to mow the same area as shorter grass).
My wife and I really don’t want to store a lot of gas or deal with fumes in the garage. Some day I may have an outbuilding. Until then, the mower will need to be in our attached garage. I never like buying 1st generation equipment, especially when very expensive. Being 2013, my expectations are than most of the bugs in the early units have been hashed out.
UPDATE: When I first got the mower, I was playing catch up with overgrown grass. The Zeon does not handle very thick and tall grass as well as a suped up gas mower. It tends to choke out and give an error code a lot if you progress too quickly. What I had to do was raise the deck to its maximum height, trim, then go at it again at a lower height. It was an unfair test for its first use, but I learned its limits pretty early. Once I got into a rhythm, I went along fine.
- The Zeon runs essentially without noise when the blades are not engaged. It really is amazingly quiet. And, it can move pretty fast. It is more than fast enough for me. I’m glad there’s a seatbelt!
- It’s size is small for being a 42″ machine–this has implications I’ll talk about later.
- There are 12 different deck heights settings! These range from 1″ to 4″. If you are clever with the deck safety lever, you can set the deck for an additional height of 4.5″.
- When the blades are engaged, it is NOT noiseless. You don’t need ear muffs, per se, but I recommend them anyway.
- I was impressed with it’s first test: mowing an overgrown side lot (grass was 20+ inches in height). The adjustments for speed were the same as I would’ve had to make with a gas powered mower of equivalent size.
- The Zeon is of welded construction; very solid.
- There’s a tow hole in the back. And it is secure enough to use to pull the unit out of a sandy mess 🙂
- This unit is expensive. I gave up an offer on a used 52″ Hustler unit that was 3/4 the price. The reasons: there was a lot of oxidation on the used unit, there was no warranty on a used machine.
- The wheel fenders are plastic–I wish those were metal.
- The fast charger is too expensive. If you want to charge the mower in 6 hours, it’ll cost you $600.
- There is no throttle adjustment like on a gas mower, so there’s no way to limit the max speed when driving/mowing. This is not an issue for me right now . . . but when the day comes I teach my children how to mow, there could be some scary moments.
Notable Points: Experiences So Far
Regarding safety, I know that the roller bar is important. But wow . . . it can be really annoying! I like that it can be folded down, but even that can get in the way. I popped a wheelie a couple times on trees with low branches or others growing at an angle. Lesson learned: a little situational awareness is in order!
When mowing heavy grass, if the motors get choked out, expect error messages on the LCD display. It’s a little disconcerting at first, but Keep Calm and Power Down. Make sure the hand controls are in the parking position and the blades are disengaged before powering back up. If that doesn’t work, while the mower is “on”, move the controls to the drive position, then out to the parking position. Then you’ll likely get the “ready” read-out.
The size of the mower is great! For a 42″ mower, you can get into very tight spaces and do circles around trees like no one’s business. However, what I’ve noticed so far is that my comfort level in dealing with slopes is not as great as the larger framed 42″ gas mower I borrowed up to this point.
Charging takes a while. 21 – 22 hours between uses can be too much to wait for some. I use the down time for trimming and other chores, so it works for me– But this could be a real issue for those with different schedules/mowing cycles.
Motor effectiveness does not decrease as the battery charge goes down. This is crucial! It’s not like a battery operated drill that begins to lose torque or rpm’s due to low battery charge. The motors in the Zeon continue at full pace even when the LCD display indicates only one bar.
To Wrap Up . . .
I’m happy with the machine so far. The lot I’ve been working on was originally 24″ in some spots and very thick. I first mowed at 4.5″. It left a clipping heap with each pass and a line of grass that had to be mowed again. But honestly, at 24″, that’s likely with most any mower. I’ve since gone over some of the lot with the deck set at 2.5″. It handled it just fine; choking out a couple times on the clipping heaps from the day before. My bagger is on order and I’m looking forward to putting it to use!
Resources (links open a new tab)
- Zeon operators manual
- Zeon parts manual
- Smartec guide to error codes
- Hydro-Gear manual for drive system
- OEM Batteries: http://www.trojanbattery.com/product/31xhs/
- OEM Batteries Spec sheet
- Hustler Turf Zeon A post about charging and testing batteries. Last active was 2011.
- Inaccurate Display blog post
- Sensor Location and Available Reference Voltage Technical post about troubleshooting sources of performance issues.
Batteries: The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) batteries are Trojan 31XHS (~$200 a piece), not to be confused with ordinary Group 31 batteries you might find locally. As Christopher points out, there is a significant difference. Something to consider . . . if you are buying a Zeon “new” now, recognize that the batteries may be old. Even if they weren’t ever really used, they’ve been sitting (likely without a healthy charge or water levels maintained). I would recommend getting some assurances from the dealer the batteries are current or have been replaced with factory OEM batteries or an equivalent (compare the specs). Otherwise the life of the batteries may be significantly reduced.
Chargers: Related to batteries, there’ve been some comments about chargers. I still use an OEM charger, simply because my first one failed and I got a replacement for free because it was still under warranty. However, I am really tempted to upgrade to an onboard charger as commented on by Brandon Friesen and Bob Hutchinson. These chargers have four separate leads that can remain attached to the batteries, charging them individually rather than in series like the OEM charger does. This permits the charger to manage each battery independently which cannot be done with an in-line series hookup as in the OEM charger. (The advantage of this is some chargers are capable of reconditioning/prolonging the life of batteries if charging only one at a time). Those mentioned below in the comments include:
- NOCO Genius 4 charger ~$375 on manufacturer’s website
- Minn Kota 440D ~$430 on manufacturer’s website
Another advantage is that some of these kinds of chargers can typically be kept outdoors; even permanently fixed to the mower for convenience. This is not the case with the Hustler OEM charger (see next paragraph).
OEM Charger Must be Indoors: If you think you can get away with putting the charger under the mower tarp while it’s outside charging, you are mistaken. This is a bad idea. The charger needs ventilation and a low humidity environment. It will fail over time if used outside, subjected to daily humidity. I speak on this from experience . . .
Loose Nuts: Check the nuts that hold the deck in place from time to time! I’ve started replacing nuts that have loosened with locking nuts (the dome shaped ones with the plastic inserts).
Battery Update: After 110 hours logged with the original batteries, I am finding that they are not performing well. I’m not sure if this is due to their age, use, or the chargers. The first OEM charger failed due to moisture getting in its housing. That was replaced with a new OEM charger by Hustler. That unit was kept dry but also failed (there was a loud “PoP,” and it was done). So I’m now using a NOCO Gen4 charger. I’m not certain if the OEM chargers caused damage to the batteries, but the Gen4 charger is giving me error codes after a couple cycles.