At its media event July 12 in Mooresville, N.C., Greenworks Tools showcased a collection of its battery-powered tools for golf courses and consumers, including its new Lithium Z zero-turn mower. Photo by Jay Weinmiller
Mooresville, N.C., has been dubbed “Race City USA.” That sounds about right. After all, Mooresville, approximately 40 miles north of Charlotte, is home to numerous NASCAR and IndyCar racing teams and drivers. All of them are, of course, motivated to floor it past their competition at high speeds and in enormously loud fashion.
Another business in Mooresville, Greenworks Commercial Tools, is aiming to make big noise in the golf course management industry by doing it quietly. Greenworks is determined to become a force with its rechargeable battery-powered equipment that reduces noise levels and has zero emissions.
During a media event in Mooresville on July 12, Greenworks unveiled the first production model of its Lithium Z zero-turn mower. The company says it’s the first and only lithium-ion battery-powered commercial-grade mower to be independently UL-certified for safety. The Lithium Z family features a zero-turn radius on both a 48-inch stand-on mower and a 60-inch ride-on mower.
In the past few years, Greenworks has sought to increase its footprint in the golf course management industry. “We have a team focused on golf,” says Tony Marchese, director of independent retail for Greenworks North America. “Golf is a big part of what we want to do.”
If you caught the American Century Championship on TV earlier this month, perhaps you saw basketball star Steph Curry, football standout Aaron Rodgers or other marquee names playing in the event at Edgewood Tahoe Course in South Lake Tahoe, Nev. You may have even caught the segment in which NBC Sports Network highlighted GCSAA Class A superintendent Brad Wunderlich carting a Greenworks backpack blower. Greenworks provided Wunderlich with tools to use in the two weeks leading up to the event and during the tournament. “Their equipment is definitely quiet,” says Wunderlich, a 14-year GCSAA member. “It came in handy, especially around the resort.”
How does Greenworks — a relatively young company (it was founded in 2002) that features cordless lawn mowers and power tools such as trimmers and chain saws — compete in what has for decades been a gas-fueled business, and, in the process, shift a mindset from gas to battery? Greenworks isn’t afraid to admit that its upfront costs may be more than those of gas-powered equipment, but the company says rechargeable equipment will cost less in the long run compared with gas-powered equipment. Offering demo programs to end users through dealers is a key component in spreading its message.
“Greenworks really does not view gas-first brands as direct competition to our products. We do, however, strive to give our customers gas performance within a rechargeable outdoor power equipment system,” Marchese says.
According to research conducted by Greenworks, approximately 500 U.S. cities have implemented noise regulations or bans on gas-powered equipment.
Stihl, a manufacturer of chain saws and outdoor power equipment, acquired a minor stake in Greenworks in 2016, which was the same year the company introduced Greenworks Commercial and a line of 82-volt commercial-grade lithium-ion products engineered specifically to meet the needs of professional landscapers. That same year, Greenworks moved into its 40,000-square-foot headquarters in Mooresville’s Cotton Gin building (Greenworks also purchased a 500,000-square-foot warehouse in nearby Morganton). According to Marchese, Greenworks shares best practices and technology with Stihl, but not products.
Greenworks, which has more than 5,000 employees in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Hong Kong, makes 85 percent of its products in-house, and its equipment has been used at facilities such as Pebble Beach Golf Links and Pinehurst Resort. On the consumer side of Greenworks’ business, Lowe’s Home Improvement is a major customer.
Greenworks’ mission, though, is far from complete as it tries to win over gas-powered equipment users. Kevin Gillis, vice president of product development for Greenworks North America, is confident that, in time, the company will succeed. “The conversion is going to happen. We’re going to be at the forefront,” Gillis says.
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.