By Matt Neundorf
on 6.26.13
Photo by MN

It starts at 6:00 p.m. every Friday. Like clockwork, the usual silence of suburbia is disrupted by the hum and thrum of a weekly lawncare ritual that spreads contagiously from house to house until the final blade of grass falls on Sunday evening. If you’re looking for stealthier way to make the neighbors a little green with envy, leave the gas can in the shed and the extension cord on its spool.

The Stihl Battery KombiSystem is the newest family of cordless contenders in an ever-growing field of DC-driven landscape products. Powered by Stihl’s AP series of 36-volt lithium-ion batteries, the family includes an incredibly quiet collection of cutters to keep your yard looking like the Eden it is, sans gasoline. To find out just how well these wireless workhorses performed, we took a small selection to our back forty (feet, not acres) for a little blade on blade action.

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HSA 65 Cordless Hedge Trimmer

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A lightweight and well balanced blade is key to inspiring confidence, but making that happen with a four-pound brick in the back end isn’t usually a recipe for success. Stihl has it sorted. The HSA 65 Cordless Hedge Trimmer made short work of shrubbery, chewing through the overgrowth with its double-sided blades. The loop-style handle makes changing direction on the fly an easy exercise and lends itself to southpaws without modification. The variable speed control on the rear trigger was a nice touch for fine-tuning, and the two-handed trigger is reassuringly safe — especially if you’re easily alarmed by bustles in your hedgerow. An integrated tip protector comes in handy when tackling any low-hanging fruit and, combined with the included sheath, should ensure your blades stay sharp enough for moving on to larger mediums.

RMA 370 Cordless Lawn Mower

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Moving from vertical to horizontal planes took no time at all: with the battery ejected from the trimmer and installed in the new RMA 370 Cordless Lawn Mower ($400), we were immediately ready to take on the lawn. The 14.5-inch diameter cutting deck of the RMA 370 is decidedly small, but perfect for homeowners with undersized lots; it easily squeezes into tight spots usually reserved for the trimmer. Next to a usual plug-in mower, pushing the 30-pound RMA 370 felt effortless; it was astonishingly quiet thanks to its brushless motor design. Blade height adjustment was a one-handed affair, and the foldable handle makes storage a non-issue. The only downside was the size of the bagger on the back — it filled up with clipping quickly and bogged down performance. This can be remedied by swapping it out for the mulching kit (which is our usual method for mowing anyway) and skipping any collections. After both the lawn and the bushes were neat and tidy, a quick check of the battery showed there was more than enough juice left to finish the job.

FSA 65 Cordless Brush Cutter

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Make no mistake, the FSA 65 is no mere edger — its formal title is a “Brush Cutter”, and for good reason. The twin-blade whipper-snipper has a 12-inch swath that could easily take on a whole lawn if you wanted. Its lightweight, ergonomic bent-shaft design is incredibly comfortable to use and, just like the mower, its brushless motor barely makes a sound. The integrated blade-guard blocks even better than Bosh in OT (sorry, San Antonio) and the mid-mounted loop style handle lets you flip things over with ease in tight quarters. Edging was no problem, and a few stray bits of growth in tough-to-get-at corners were taken care of easily. The size of the FSA 65 may actually be a little extreme for the average homeowner, as it’s only 2.5 inches shy of the mower’s cutting capabilities — but then again, when has too much ever really been a problem?

We were also able to test the Battery KombiSystem with Stihl’s new AP 180 Lithium-Ion battery, a larger-capacity, longer-lasting power source, hitting U.S. store shelves right about now. While the AP 160 (the size we used) was able to take care of everything we could throw at it on a single charge, people with more square footage will welcome the extra juice. In the mower alone, most will muster only about 25 minutes (approx. 1,000 sq/ft) out of the AP 160 before recharging is necessary, so if you want to take care of everything in one fell swoop, you may want to opt for the AP 180 and have a second battery at the ready. Note, also, that all of Stihl’s batteries and chargers are sold separately from their power tools.

For those with smaller yards who are committed to going emission-free, though, the cordless approach is a fast and easy way to take a green approach to yardwork — and the Stihl Battery KombiSystem is more than up to the task. In addition to the tools we tested here, a leaf-blower and a 12-inch chainsaw are also available to round out the cordless collection; tree-hugging arborists, rejoice.

METHODOLOGY First, we waited. After our lawn had grown to less than neighborly levels, we plunked the power cell into each of Stihl yard work tools and tamed our suburban jungle back to acceptable levels — for us, and them.
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