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THE LAWNBOTT EVOLUTION REVOLUTION
This isn't your father's lawnmower, but could it be yours?
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There are three basic groups of yard owners, the ones who believe that yard care should be kept in the family (in my case the wife or son), those that pay a lawn care service, and those that believe there has got to be a better way.
The Lawnbott Evolution actually fits all three categories. Unlike most kids (and uh, husbands), the Lawnbott Evolution is reliable. So the yard will always look nice. Since a little weeding eating still needs to be done, that can handled by the family.
The Lawnbott Evolution is cheaper than a lawn care service and carries a lot more prestige. When that ZTR rolls off the back of the truck and weed eaters are humming, everyone knows that you can afford to be pampered. BUT, have a Lawnbott Evolution in your yard, AHHH, that will bring people from all over to admire you (and your yard!) all the time. You will be the talk of the neighborhood!
Since the Lawnbott Evolution will mow, go back to the charger, and go back out again all season long without any human intervention, how much more qualified for "A Better Way," can it get?
When my Lawnbott Evolution first came in I thought it was a toy. It was very small at 22 1/2 inches long, 16 1/2 inches wide, and 10 1/4 inches high. It weighs only 22 lbs. The size and weight have advantages and disadvantages that will be discussed later. It looked so fragile and helpless, the little red wagon colored hood didnt help. Disappointment filled my head for paying so much without first putting my hands on it. Curse you internet!
That was then- this is now.The Evolution is designed to cover about 3/4 acre and slopes of up to 27 degrees, that is far more than any robotic mower on the market today. The small size allows it to squeeze into some very tight spaces, for me it fits nicely between a tree and a fence that my Robomower can't. Some tight spaces in my yard
The Evolution is fun to watch as well. It quickly comes out of the charger and once it has its bearings it zips along at about the speed of a prancing Chihuahua. When it runs over the wire or bumps into something it stops, backs up, turns and starts on its merry way again.
The Evolution comes in a single box that weighs about 60 lbs. 500 ft. of perimeter wire is included, which doesn't even come close to how much is needed for my yard. I ended up going to Lowes and getting 1,500 ft of 14 gauge THHN single strand copper wire for about 4 cents a foot.
At least they include plenty of pegs. As I tried to secure the wire to the ground I broke 10 pegs before I realized that they could be shortened. About 3 inches into the ground they would snap off at the head. By manually shortening them I was able to hammer them in below grass level with no problem.
The Lawnbott Manual is written in seven different languages. The English version is poorly translated and makes for some difficult reading. The measurements are all metric so I had to constantly refer to a conversion chart. The ruler that comes with it is really cheap, I think they could have sprung for a better one.
The entire Lawnbott line automatically goes back to the charger when the battery reaches a certain level. A hood covers the charger that gives added protection against the elements while parked.
The sinusoidal transmitter does the job of the perimeter switch for the Robomower, since it is always on, there is no need to trudge through the bushes. It can handle about 2,000 feet of wire, a booster can add another 1,000 ft.
One more note of interest, when the mower first comes out of the charger it always turns right and will follow the wire in a clockwise direction so the charging base must be set up accordingly.
The IR remote control is simple but still needs explaining. In order to use the remote you have to be directly behind the mower. There are 6 buttons. The top four are rather confusing. They look like they correlate to the 4 wheels. In fact, the Evolution only has motors for the back two wheels, the front two are just casters. The top and bottom wheel buttons do the exact same thing (turn left or right). The Pause button stops the mower, press it again and the mower will resume. If the mower is docked pressing the Circle button makes the mower come out of the charger and start mowing. If the mower is in motion the Circle button makes the mower go in to a Smart Spiral (more on that later), and finally if the mower is in the pause mode and the Circle button is pushed it will command the mower back to the charging base.
When I put the mower in the charging base I was surprised that it came fully charged. I can't remember anything with a rechargeable battery that was ready to go out of the box. The lithium ion battery is light weight, it recharges very rapidly, and it does not suffer from the "memory" problems of lead acid batteries. I am told that a second battery can be added that can effectively double the range, it will not double the speed or make it more powerful however.
So here I am after an all day event of un-boxing, deciphering manuals, and laying wire, was it worth it? Read on my friend.
After about 3 hours of laying wire I was ready to test things out. I pressed the Circle button on the remote and Moe (yes, it now has a name) came to life! It backed out of the charging base, turned right and stopped- and so did my heart. But after about 5 seconds it started moving forward, in a few feet I heard the whirling sound of the blade ramping up and all was well. Well, until it hit the wire. I hadn't tacked the wire down close enough to the ground in a few spots and the wire got tangled in the blade! After a few minutes of unwinding and splicing and tacking down I was once again ready.
I turned Moe back on and nothing happened. I checked the wire and it seemed okay. I hauled the mower back to the charger and turned it on, then hit the Circle button and once again Moe came to life. It seems that if the blade gets blocked that it has to be put back in the charger for it to become operable again. When I asked why I got one of those, "That's not a bug- it's a (safety) feature" statements.
I once again was ready, this time as soon as he came out and started to mow I hit the Pause Button and then the Circle Button which commanded Moe to find the perimeter wire and head back home. I had to make a few minor adjustments to the wire in some areas so it would not bump into objects while following the wire back home. When it strikes an object following the wire back home it will stop, back-up, turn right and make a left handed arc back to the wire. Moving the wire a few inches here and there wasn't a problem.
Protecting areas such as gardens and flowerbeds isn't a big deal, it just requires running the wire from the perimeter around the area to be protected and back to the perimeter. There is a drainage hole that really wasn't that large, but Moe kept getting stuck in it when hit at a certain angle so I had to run the wire around it.
Now I was ready to go "live". As Moe started to mow he (she?) would run past the wire, stop, back-up, turn to the right, and proceed forward. For a while he turned right, then for a while he would turn left, in what appears to be random angles. I watched it carefully as it ran over and into things. It would bounce off my tree and come daringly close to the fence in some areas, but seemed to be enjoying playing in his new surroundings. After about two hours of running here and fro it finally headed back to the charger.
It had left a couple of small patches here and there. If he was going to stay this could not be tolerated, but at the same time this was his first time so I left the patches alone and went inside. About three hours later my wife told me that Moe was outside working. By the time I got there all the missed places had been covered, whew!
The manual says that it will go out for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, it is closer to 3, it says that it should take 4 hours to recharge, it takes less than 3 and it will be ready to go again.
The Lawnbott line uses a 4 edge, 12 inch, cutting blade that is reversible. When the first side becomes dull it can be flipped over. The blade turns at 3,200 RPMs, plenty fast enough to top grass.
The Fast Return is unique to the Lawnbott line. Instead of following the wire all around the perimeter back to the charging base when it is done mowing, the wire can be bent like a little triangle to tell the mower to cut straight across. At first I thought this was a great idea but after some more reasoning I decided not to implement it because I want the border trimmed every time it goes out.
The Smart Spiral feature is very useful. When the Evolution comes across high or particularly thick grass it will start in a tight circle and work its way out until the resistance drops to normal. This extra attention ensures that the grass will all be mowed to a consistent level.
It is not only fun to watch, but listening can be amusing as well. As the Evolution finds something to cut it will increase blade RPMs with a correspondingly higher pitch noise, when in no grass (or already cut areas) the blade sound noticeably drops. The German-made Drucker motors are ultra-quiet, if not for the whirring of the blade it would have a decibel level below that of a TV coming on.
The Evolution with the hood off showing the secondary waterproof cover and exposing the inner workings.
The Self-Programming feature is probably the highlight of the Evolution. As the Evolution mows it calculates the size of the area and the resistance of the grass then when it goes back to the charger it will calculate the next time it needs to come out to keep the yard at the optimal height. There is no need to set the day and time like on most robotic lawn mowers, it will determine the next time it needs to come out on its own! When fully charged the LCD screen will show the next time it intends to come out.
The way to get the greatest benefit out of automatic lawnmowers is to mow frequently. By allowing the grass to get too high and then cutting it too low causes thatch and stress. Thatch smothers the roots and prevents the morning dew from reaching the tender roots on top, it also acts like a blanket in the hot sun. By allowing the robotic lawnmowers to cut frequently only the very tips of the grass are cut. Since the clippings are very small (think of why you chew food) it breaks down very rapidly and becomes a natural fertilizer.
The Lawnbott line is equipped with a rain sensor so if it starts to rain or the sprinklers kick on it will go back to the charger on its own. It also has a wet grass detection system that is rather primitive, but it works, that will send it back to the charger. At first I didn't think too highly of this feature, after all it is waterproof, so what do I care if it gets wet? Oh yeah, it is supposed to be taking care of the yard! Cutting wet grass is not a good idea, plus I have heard stories from Robomower owners keeping bags of sand ready for when it rains and their mowers get stuck and dig trenches in the soft ground.
The Lawnbott line can be programmed to go to three different zones autonomously. The primary zone is when it comes out of the charger and starts to mow right away. The other two zones can be programmed for the mower to come out of the charger, find the perimeter wire and follow it for a set amount of time, then release into that area. When it is done mowing it will follow the perimeter wire back to the charger. My side yard is the primary area, I have Moe cross the driveway into my front yard as the secondary area. I put the wire between the cuts in the concrete, Moe has no problems crossing over my concrete driveway from one area to the next.
Another well-thought feature is the ability to upgrade the firmware over the internet. There are a few things I would like to see changed software-wise that I hope get implemented. The first being if it should get stuck or doesn't run over the perimeter wire in a predetermined amount of time it tries to free itself, or at least stop the blade and wheels.
When it got stuck in the little drainage hole, it dug a nice little trench. It wasn't a big deal to toss some sand on it and cordon off the area, I guess it was just something I didn't expect.
When in the charging base it occasionally beeps, why? I don't know, but it does. It doesn't need any intervention, it just beeps. If I could turn that off it would be nice. Since it has a buzzer it would be nice to add a theft deterrent system to the software that would go off if it were forced out of the perimeter wire. I live in a nice neighborhood so it is not really a concern, but it would be nice to have.
The underside. Notice in the second picture the allen wrench is used to free the locking screw. The third picture shows the blade depth.
The cutting height can be adjusted underneath. It is a little tricky at first, but how often does the height actually need to be changed? The instructions say to take the blade off, but that isn't necessary. It has nice little markings to adjust the height. It appears to me marked in centimeters. The adjustment height is from 1/4 inch to 2 3/4 inches.
It comes with a winter charging kit to keep the battery optimized for long periods of inactivity.
Zucchetti offers spiked tires for those tough hills or soft ground.
Moe only costs about a year in electricity, uses no gas and burns no oil. The only maintenance is to keep the blade sharp. I read where lawnmowers pollute more per hour than SUVs. I am not a tree hugger but I like to contribute when I can.
Running the wire and getting things set up was easier than I thought. It needs to be stressed to tack the wire down every few feet because Moe will suck the wire up from the ground and cut it before you can say uh-oh! This powerful suction is caused by the mulching action of the blade.
The Lawnbott Evolution does an absolutely excellent job chopping grass into fine mulch but I'd give Moe a C- on leaf mulching. It really isn't his forte, but even the best mulchers can't keep up with the Fall because the ground just can't absorb that much material. So Fall raking is still a necessity.
I am often asked how the Lawnbott Evolution does in tall grass, it is meant to maintain a yard, Moe's job is to keep a yard looking at it's best at all times, not to let the grass get long and then whack it down. I have put Moe through some pretty high field grass for testing, he did very well, but was not happy about it.
Surprisingly an occasional pine cone does not cause any problems for Moe. I really figured they would get stuck in the chamber but Moe just tosses them out like some cartoon character spits out chicken bones. It is not a good idea to just let the pine cones build up, Moe is designed to cut grass, not pine cones and limbs.
My yard is broken into two zones that total about 20,000 sq ft. Moe has done an excellent job of keeping the grass cut, he keeps the whole yard crew-cut smooth.
After about 4 months of mowing just my yard I saw my 64 year-old neighbor lady pushing a mower in 98 degree heat. In a rare act of chivalry I asked if I could extend my wire into her yard. The wire had become well covered by grassroots and sunk a ways in the ground. So I had to get a screwdriver to scratch my way around to find the wire. It took my wife and I about 40 minutes to wire her front yard.
The Lawnbott Evolution just took the extra area in stride. On the first run it smart spiraled around her yard like a honey bee reporting a find back to the nest. I don't think Moe could have been happier. I also noticed that Moe was now going out twice a day- he detected the larger area and was compensating for it automatically! The self-programming really does work!
I guess the reason why most people are going to read this review is to ask the all important question, "Does it REALLY mow your yard?" The answer is yes. There are no noticeable missed areas. There is no place in the yard that I have to go out and touch-up. There is still a need for a little weed-eating here and there against the fence and of course the bushes need trimming once or twice a year.
I don't think a dry day goes by that Mow isn't out there doing what Moe does best- mow. With the self-programming feature I don't really care when he goes out so long as my yard looks like it should.
As days have passed into weeks I no longer get so excited about seeing Moe work. Even the dogs, who went on intruder alert at first, kind of give him the eye and go on their way. Oh, occasionally a friend will come by and I'll have to let Moe show his stuff, but even that is kind of routine now.
As I write this I have to ponder the value of marriage. I mean after all which one has become obsolete; the wife to tell the husband it is time to mow- or the husband to tell the wife he'll do it later?
Note: The LawnBott Evolution no longer comes with a winter charge kit, it is optional