The lawn mower first appeared as a two-wheel motorless device during the 1800s. Gas-powered motors didn't appear until the 20th century and didn't become popular until after World War II. Electric mowers arrived in the 1920s but weren't widely accepted until the 1950s. Electric and gas-powered lawn mowers may appear similar in setup and method of use, but they are much different in power source and maintenance. Both have pros and cons.
Electric lawn mowers operate with an electrical current generated by either a battery mounted on the mower or a cord tethered to a stationary power source. Gas lawn mowers use fossil fuel and chemical combustion to generate power to the motor.
Gas mowers are more powerful because more force is generated to operate the motor. Electric mowers have limited power and cannot operate well over thick or heavy turf. Gas mowers require more energy to operate while electric mowers have limited operating times, often only up to 20 minutes before needing recharging for battery-operated models. Gas mower power is measured in horsepower, while electric motor power is measured in volts or amps.
Maintenance is similar for both types of mowers, depending on the parts being maintained. Both electric and gas mowers must be cleaned out underneath after each mowing to preserve the shaft and blades. Both types also require routine inspection of wires, nuts and bolts, chassis and cables. Gas lawn mower engines require more maintenance because there are more moving parts such as carburetors, fuel lines and chokes. Electric lawn mowers require more care to keep the mower dry to avoid shorts in the wiring.
Electric lawn mowers have a few benefits. The quietness of the motor and the lack of emissions are the two biggest advantages. The ability to handle smaller areas and the lighter weight compared with gas mowers are two other advantages. Gas mowers have many benefits, too. The range of mower sizes to fit various lawns and the dexterity of the wheel base are two of the big positives. Gas mowers can cover more ground without needing to recharge or refuel.
Electric mowers have one main drawback--their limited operating range because of either the length of the cord or the speed at which the battery drains. Electric mowers also tend to bog down in tall grass or heavy turf because of their limited power range. Electric mowers can be inflexible when corded because of the potential for snagging the cord around obstacles; battery-powered mowers avoid this problem but cannot increase power to meet demand when tough patches of ground are met. Gas mowers can potentially cause breathing problems when the motor is run improperly and causes smoke. Gas motors can be flooded with fuel and become hard to start until they dry out. They can catch fire easier than electric or battery motors because of the spark needed to start combustion of the fuel.