With all the development of battery-powered outdoor power equipment (OPE), one thing has remained elusive. There aren't many resources for battery-operated riding lawn mowers. The Mean Green Nemesis NXR lawn mower is the first lawn mower we've seen in person, but its $8,999 starting price may seem out of reach for the average homeowner. The Ryobi battery-operated riding lawn mower is the first battery-powered riding lawn mower under $3,000, offering consumers all the convenience of an electric lawn mower. The closest competitor is the $3,999 42-inch Cub Cadet RZT-S42 Zero. Is the RYOBI RM480E Lawn Mower Right for Everyone? Probably not, but finding the best electric battery lawn mower isn't just about price — there are many factors that come into play.
While this is a hands-on review, I think it also does a good job of explaining why you might want to buy a battery-operated riding lawn mower. For starters, this lawn mower requires little to no maintenance. There are no belts to maintain because the twin brushless motors that drive the twin 19-inch blades use direct drive. No gas engine also means no need to change spark plugs, fuel or air filters. Finally, battery-powered lawn mowers don't use gasoline, so smog and overwintering are a thing of the past. Sound convenient? This is. That's probably the biggest reason you'll want to consider paying a premium for a Ryobi battery-powered lawn mower over other gasoline-powered models.
You may also just want a greener mowing solution. If your yard is bigger than a battery-powered walk-behind mower can handle, the Ryobi RM480E is the closest and most affordable option for you.
Convenient Features of the Ryobi RM480E Riding Lawn Mower
With the Ryobi RM480E battery powered riding lawn mower, you can pretty much just charge it up and go. It runs on four 12V lead-acid batteries. This gives you a 48V system with a 75Ah, 4000Wh power plant. These batteries are combined with three direct-drive brushless motors (the third is on the drivetrain) to provide two hours of runtime. A single charge should be enough to cover two acres of land. The system also allows for easy battery replacement once the 3-year warranty expires.
While the Ryobi battery-powered riding lawn mower can run for two hours, it should be kept on a charge when not in use. Keeping your riding lawn mower plugged in and charging is the best way to maintain and maintain those four sealed lead-acid batteries. In this way, the Ryobi riding lawn mower operates much like an electric golf cart.
Unlike most riding lawn mowers, sitting in the Ryobi RM480E is like riding a high-tech go-kart. The control panel is much more advanced than traditional lawn mowers, and has an easy-to-read LED gauge for displaying battery charge (bar) and total run hours (digital readout).
On top of the panel is the blade engagement knob. Pull it up and the blades engage. Snap it down and they'll stop spinning. Below that, you'll find the cruise control and directional control switches and buttons for the LED headlights. The keyswitches are located below the digital gauges, as are the USB ports. To the right of the entire panel is a vertically oriented space that holds your smartphone. In reverse, there's also an override function for mowing grass.
comfort and seating
The seat on Ryobi's battery-operated riding lawn mower has several springs to cushion the ride, and an adjustment lever that slides back and forth. This lawn mower uses a steering wheel, so it operates in a manner that will be more familiar to those who may not have mastered traditional zero-turn. This isn't a zero-turn mower — but it does have a fairly tight turning radius.
It's like a go-kart — and the Ryobi ride-on mower is sort of like that — the gas pedal is on the right and the brake is on the left. The foot pedal is easy to depress, but there is a bit of lag when starting. It's a mixed bag. You don't want sudden acceleration when you press the pedal, but it feels a bit sluggish at times. If you want to drink water or something while mowing, cup holders are located behind and to the left of the seat. It's just behind the deck height bar and can only accommodate smaller containers.
Ryobi Riding Mower Blades and Brakes
With the Ryobi riding lawn mower brake fully depressed, you engage the parking brake on the left side just below the steering wheel. Be sure to do this when you park your lawn mower after you finish work.
The Ryobi RM480E uses dual 19-inch blades, driven directly by two brushless motors. This gives this mower a 38-inch cutting deck. Deck is available in twelve (12) height options from 1.5" to 4.5". One issue we have had repeatedly is the tendency for the deck height lever to shift position when you step away from the mower. I hit it almost every time and have to reset it before mowing.
The Ryobi RM480E is guided by peeling wheels that keep the blade and deck from digging in when you come up hills or on uneven ground. Includes a cover plug for easy installation. I left it for our testing.
reach cruising speed
The Ryobi 48V riding lawn mower also includes cruise control. Cruise control is activated by a button on the console and maintains speed wherever you set it. I use it a lot during testing because it's so easy to engage and disengage. The headlights look odd, except the mower is really quiet compared to similar gasoline-powered models. For the first time ever, you can actually mow your lawn at night. Note that the mower is not quiet, but the drive motor and spinning blades are the only noise sources. From the seat, we measured 92 dB SPL, which is about the same noise we got from a 48-inch zero turn before the spinning blades. It's also about 6-7 dB SPL lower than a typical pneumatic product, such as an Exmark Radius X-Series zero-turn mower or a John Deere ZTrak Z355E in cutting mode.
The reverse gear is unique because Ryobi battery powered riding lawn mowers use a brushless motor. Instead of a typical ZT or manual shifter, the RM480E uses a simple rocker switch to control forward, neutral and reverse. However, if you want to cut in reverse, you need to press an extra button on the control panel. Once activated, the blade will continue to spin when you reverse the drive.
Ryobi Battery Powered Riding Lawn Mower
When the blades are not engaged, the mower is going fast — about 8 mph. As the blades spin, the speed drops to around 5mph. Instead, you'll be slower — just 3 mph. Cuts more authoritatively than typical grass. However, we do have an unusual drought in Central Florida. We had to wait over a month for the grass to be almost mowable. When it finally started raining – man, that grass grows fast! This gives us a nice mix of short and tall grass areas.
In some places the grass is a bit unruly. These areas require a significant reduction in speed so as not to stall the blade. This will certainly be unusual for most users – but be aware that if you're waiting too long, you'll need to adjust your cutting technique accordingly.
The ride on the Ryobi battery-powered lawn mower is a bit bumpy. Some of that is a factor of the smaller frame and seat. It's by no means uncomfortable, but you do experience more movement. This is closely related to the expected yard size with this mower. A yard over 1 to 1-1/2 acres would certainly benefit from a more comfortable ride and seating.
The cruise control works really well, and the absence of a zero-turn radius means you can end up with more of a circular cutting pattern than back and forth. You can touch the brake to disable cruise control or deactivate it with a push button switch.
Ryobi RM480E Battery Powered Riding Lawn Mower Features and Specifications
- Speeds: 8 mph (drive), 5 mph (cut), 3 mph (reverse)
- Deck Height: 12 places (1.5 – 4.5 inches)
- Deck Width: 38 inches
- Blades: 2 x 19″ precision cut steel
- Side discharge, covered or bagged (option)
- cruise control
- USB charging (1.0A)
- LED headlight
- Drive: Rear (Front/Rear/Neutral)
- Run time: 2 acres / 2 hours
- Weight: 595 lbs.
- Seat: adjustable with double springs
- Control Panel: Battery Level, Timer
- start button
- operator presence control
- Parking brake
- Optional accessories: 2-case soft bagger with bagging blade, covering blade
- Retail price: $2699 (75Ah battery)
- Retail price: $2899 (100Ah battery)
- Bagger: $299
- replace the blade
Back to our original discussion: Is the Ryobi battery-powered riding lawn mower for everyone? Probably not — but it's an impressive product at a price well below every other battery-operated model on the market today.
I think the 75Ah model is for those with yards in the neighborhood of 3/4 to 1 acre. Beyond that size, you pay a $200 premium for the 100Ah model. It will get you to 1-1/2 acres or more. Bigger decks and more speed can also come in handy.
If your yard is less than 1/2 an acre, the Ryobi RY40180 40V Brushless Lawn Mower may be a more economical solution.
The batteries — if they last as long as a typical golf cart — are expected to run for five years (maybe more). After that, replacements run about $110-140 each. This means that while you don't pay for fuel, depending on your usage, you could end up with a bill of $440-$560 every 5-10 years. Keep the mower charger plugged in to maintain the battery, it should take longer. Compared to natural gas products, this may be close to cleaning – but with the added bonus of less maintenance and no winterization.
We love using Ryobi riding lawn mowers. It is virtually maintenance free. I appreciate that and look forward to more innovations from Ryobi and other companies in the region in the years to come.