Earlier this year I had a chance to try out some electric (battery-powered) chainsaws. My expectations going in were pretty low: I figured that they would either be laughingly toy-like in their appearance or so frustratingly slow that I’d rather cut wood with an old, rusty, dull, hand saw. Or both.
It turns out I was surprised, though perhaps I shouldn’t have been. If Tesla can build an all-electric car that can go from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds (here’s a video of one trouncing a gasoline-powered 707-h.p., 6.2 liter, 8-cylinder Dodge Hellcat in a drag race), then powering a chainsaw with electric current maybe doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch.
I found that at least some of the electric chainsaws on the market today are real tools that work just fine when used for the right job. You won’t find any YouTube videos of an electric chainsaw out-cutting a Husqvarna 372 XP or a Stihl MS 661; if you’re a logger, a battery-powered chainsaw – at least today’s version – isn’t for you. The models I tried out were equipped with homeowner-grade safety chain, so I didn’t even try to see if they had enough power for bore cuts. I’m not sure they would. And I wouldn’t want to have to buck up six cords of firewood with one, either. But all that said, I now own one and have found there are instances where they are even better than my gas saws.
The first thing you notice about battery-powered chainsaws, at least about the more powerful 40-volt and higher models I tried, is that they look and feel pretty much like a 40cc gas chainsaw. About the same weight and balance. Handles designed the same way. Bar lengths range 14-18 inches. They need bar and chain oil, just the same as a gas saw. The difference is that instead of mixing 2-cycle fuel, you just drop in a fairly substantial lithium ion battery.
The next thing you notice when running one is that they are quiet. When you don’t have your finger on the throttle lever, the saw is completely silent. No idling sound, no nothing. I have been using mine to harvest trees on my Christmas tree farm. It’s nice to be able to get yourself under the tree and situated with a completely lifeless saw before instantly firing it to life. Even when running, the saw is much quieter than a gas version. And once the cut is done – it takes roughly the same time to cut through a 5-inch diameter balsam fir that my light-duty 30cc gas saw does – there is instant quiet once again.
There’s also no fumes to breathe. And there is never any feeling of “I really hope it starts” or starter cords to pull and repull or choking or priming or decompression buttons – if there’s a charge in the battery, it will run every single time you pull the trigger. One of the biggest selling points that manufacturers tout with electric chainsaws is that by eliminating the fuel, you’re also eliminating fuel problems like gas going bad or ethanol damaging carburetors.
I’ve heard recently from at least five other Christmas tree growers with farms much larger than mine, growers harvesting thousands of trees a year, who just switched over to electric chainsaws for all of these reasons. I know they work for this application, and I imagine they would work for others. Arborists with a lot of pruning work, maybe? Definitely homeowners that find they only use their chainsaws a few times a year for smaller jobs. It seems logical to assume that the power of these saws will continue to increase; maybe at some point the voltage will be enough for serious work in the woods.
I don’t own stock in any of the companies that make electric chainsaws. (The ones I’ve tried successfully or have heard good things about are made by Echo, Oregon, Sun Joe, and Greenworks; there may be others that work just as well.) I’m just passing along the information because it’s a new tool that I’ve found helpful and perhaps someone else will, too. If so, there’s still time to ask for one under your Christmas tree.