Posted on April 4, 2017 @ 09:57:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I recently received a sales brochure from Stihl because I purchased a few of their gas-powered string trimmers in the past to deal with grass and weeds around my organically grown grape vines. They devoted the front page to the brochure to promoting the 4 to 8 hour continuous runtime of their AR 3000 backpack battery option. This technology is not new (as demonstrated in this 2013 ad below) but the market for it is arguably starting to catch up.
The reason I am mentioning this is not to promote Stihl's offering as other companies such as Husqvarna offer a similiar backpack option that may be better in certain respects (e.g., the power cords may not get in the way as much when operating). Rather, what interests me is this statement from the Stihl brochure:
To no one's surprise, the battery-powered outdoor power equipment market is growing exponentially with each passing year.
If someone were to ask me where we are seeing huge market growth today, I would agree that the "battery-powered outdoor power equipment
market" is a huge area of growth. We are only starting to see some of the innovations that might arise from being able to carry around a longer running and more powerful energy supply on our backs. These back packs are quite expensive and marketed more towards the professional landscaper, however, what happens if the prices come down and the number of gizmos we can plug them into goes up? All the power tool brands are investing heavily into lithium ion battery technology and trying to differentiate themselves on that basis. I am contributing to this growth in my own small way by gradually replacing all my corded tools with their non-corded versions. The main drawback to the battery powered backpack is that it still involves a cord, albeit one not plugged into a wall plug. Having that much power at your disposal, however, means you can operate some more power hungry tools for a longer amount of time making it a more feasible replacement for gas-powered versions.
I do like the idea of running a string trimmer without producing gas fumes, however, I am under no illusion that this is a completely green technology because the power plants that I am getting my energy from are still burning fossil fuels to generate my power. That is why I see these technologies only reaching their true potential when offered in conjunction with local power generation as well - solar charging, wind-powered charging, micro-hydro, etc... This "battery powered outdoor equipment" market may finally give us sufficient reason to invest in renewable energy technologies at the home scale. Maybe you don't want to invest in enough renewable energy capacity to power your home, but you might be willing to invest in enough to recharge the battery packs for the increasing number of battery-powered power tools you own?
Another thing Stihl could develop would be an electric bike that I can plug my back pack into so that I have more reasons to make this investment. Maybe I can run a Stihl coffee pot and hotplate with it on the job site as well? Maybe an exoskeleton attachment to assist me in lifting some heavy logs?
How big is this "battery powered outdoor equipment" market going to be and how will it evolve in the next few years? I don't know the answer to this question but it cannot be ignored if you are an entrepreneur or investor looking for an "exponentially growing market". Maybe you will have to work within the Stihl, Dewalt, Husqvarna, Echo, etc... ecosystems to develop new innovations just like software developers innovate within the Microsoft, Apple, and Google ecosystems. If the companies won't open up their platforms for outside innovation then we'll need an open-source battery-powered platform that will if that is possible with all the licensing and patents involved.
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