Stihl Expanding Cordless-Tool Line to Attract DIY Crowd

The Stihl BGA 56 cordless leaf blower / Credit: StihlStihl is one of the biggest names in outdoor power equipment, known particularly for handheld gear. But its 36-volt battery-powered line of tools, introduced six years ago, hasn’t gone gangbusters—not from any concerns about performance, but from pricing more appropriate for well-heeled landscapers than homeowners. Fortunately, more is coming from Stihl: two new cordless lines for the rest of us.

As of next spring, Stihl’s Lightning Battery Systems will include the existing line, now designated AP, plus two others. The 36V AP line remains targeted to pros and includes two leaf blowers, a hedge trimmer, three string trimmers, two chain saws and two mowers (a third, the $320 RMA 510, is on the way) along with other tools.

Two new cordless lines
The AK line is intended for prosumer/suburban homeowners. The BGA 56 leaf blower, shown above ($130), HSA 56 hedge trimmer ($200), FSA 56 string trimmer ($150) and MSA 120 C-BQ chainsaw ($240) comprise this line. All prices shown for the AK line, though, are without the AK 20 battery and AL 101 charger, which add $50 to $70 more for the bundle, depending on product.

Stihl FSA 45 cordless string trimmer / Credit: StihlTargeted to condo dwellers who need to do their own yard work, the AI line uses integrated 18V batteries. It includes the BGA 45 leaf blower, HSA 45 hedge trimmer and (shown at left) FSA 45 string trimmer. Each costs $130.

Although the AP and AK lines are both rated for 36 volts, their respective batteries aren’t interchangeable. The AK line’s batteries, the AK 10 ($70) and AK 20 ($100), lasted roughly half to two-thirds as long, in Stihl’s own runtime tests, as the AP line’s AP 300. Stihl claims that charging the AK 10 takes 30 or 80 minutes, depending on which charger you use. For the AK 20, it’s 45 or 150 minutes, depending on the charger.

The AK line, however, should bring Stihl’s cordless tools into homes. Unlike the AP line’s, pricing for the AK tools—and the AI for condo owners—isn’t prohibitive. We’ll see, once the new lines are available for review, how these tools stack up against competitors whose products have been in homes for quite some time. Stihl’s advantage: All are sold at authorized dealerships, where you’ll be better able to try out the products before buying than you can at Home Depot or Lowe’s. And you’ll know whom to see should you be unhappy later.

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Oregon shows string trimmer replacement head

Oregon Gator SpeedLoad / Credit: OregonIf you put away your string trimmer this year in disgust, chances are it had something to do with misbehaving cutting line. It wouldn’t feed when you wanted it to or, worse, it jammed or even fused up inside the trimmer head. Whatever the problem, Oregon Products hopes you’ll consider its Gator SpeedLoad replacement head next spring.

The Gator SpeedLoad, shown at the recent Green Industry and Equipment Expo trade show in Louisville, has just two parts: the trimmer head and a tiny disk cartridge that resembles a very cool Oregon Gator SpeedLoad detail / Credit: Oregondrink coaster. The line is wound flatly around to form the cartridge, in diameters ranging from 0.80 to 1.18 inch, and its tongue-and-groove shape helps keep the cartridge intact.

To load line, you unclip the head’s cover, plop a cartridge in and run each of the two lines out (see video below) between two pairs of guide posts before replacing the cover. One plus Oregon is touting is how quickly a user can replace a disk cartridge: 20 seconds or less.

The product sells for $30 or $46—the head comes in two sizes—and is compatible with several gas-trimmer brands. Replacement cartridges, sold in packs of three, cost about $6 (0.80-inch) or $8 (0.95-inch) for the small-diameter and $10 (0.95-inch) or $12 (1.18-inch) for the large-diameter. To check if your string trimmer can accommodate the Gator SpeedLoad, check out the company’s guide.

Among other announcements, Oregon will add a 6.0-amp-hour battery, for longer run time, to its line of 40-volt cordless tools.

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