Outdoor Power Equipment Reviews

Electric Mowers

Pro Rating
Final Thoughts

The Ryobi ZT480ex is well-suited for the homeowner that has a decent sized lot to keep up with, and who wants to jump on the whole zero-emissions, low-noise, low maintenance electric mower train.

Overall Score 4.1 Pro Rating

Ryobi Zero Turn Electric Riding Mower Review – ZT480ex


Ryobi Applies Electric Mower Tech to New 42″ Zero Turn

In Florida, summer has been in full swing for a while now, which means that the grass we cut a week ago desperately needed to be cut again yesterday. As is generally the case, time is limited and we don’t always have it to get the mower fired up every four days. When we’re getting a lot of rain, mowing only once a week can result in overgrowth and that really tests cordless lawn mowers. With that in mind, we went into testing out the 42″ Ryobi Zero Turn Mower with a bit of cautious optimism over how well this all-electric ZTR could tackle our unruly lawn.

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Pros

  • All-electric functionality feels super convenient
  • Long runtime per charge
  • Onboard conveniences, such as mobile phone charging capabilities and cup holders
  • Easy cut height adjustment
  • Low-speed settings for the drive and blade motors
  • Lap bar controls feel responsive without taking off too quickly

Cons

  • Can bog down easily without the low-speed settings engaged
  • 3 cutting blades might be more efficient than 2
  • When blade motors struggled, we could hear the blades chatter and grind

Recommendation

The ZT480ex Ryobi mower is probably not best suited for commercial applications. It has, however, found a nice niche in the homeowner market. It’s well-suited for the homeowner that has a decent sized lot up to 3 acres. It works particularly well for those who stay vigilant against letting the yard get out of control. This is because thicker grass can bog down the blades. This mower does have low-speed settings for both the drive motor and the blade motor, which definitely helps. It just lacks a gas mower’s ability to rip through unruly patches. However, for maintenance cutting, this zero turn mower is quiet, comfortable, and truly does tackle up to 3 acres on a charge.

Features We Paid Attention To

All-Electric Functionality

If you’ve ever had a golf cart at your disposal, perhaps for actual golfing or perhaps for just getting around the neighborhood, you understand how convenient it is to just hop in, turn a key, and go. The Ryobi Zero Turn experience feels just like that, except instead of putzing around the neighborhood, you’re taking care of a chore that usually results in gas and fumes, throttle chokes, loose belts, and yearly maintenance. There’s a real pleasure that comes from just hopping on the mower and getting to work. Plus, the whole operation is pretty quiet, even when you’ve engaged the cutting blades.

Runtime

Runtime is always an issue when it comes to electric power, but the Ryobi ZT480ex doesn’t really seem to struggle in this department. Ryobi claims that you can mow up to 3 acres on a charge, and based on our lot size and the remaining battery level, we’d have to concur. Of course, your runtime will drop if the mower really has to dig into its reserves to get through an overgrown lawn. But if you keep your lawn maintained, this seems like an achievable estimate.

To gauge run-time, we let the lawn around the shop get a little “furry”. Even so, we still managed to mow about an acre and a half without dropping below 60% charge. We weren’t using the headlights, and we didn’t spend too much time in low gear, but we probably could have mowed our whole lawn twice doing what we were doing.

Low-Speed Settings for the Motor and Cutting Blades

It would be nice if all lawns grew with more consistency than they do, but it’s unfortunately not the case. The yard here can be patchy and sandy in one section and super thick in another. They grow in at different rates, and by the time the thin stuff is ready to cut, the thick stuff has gotten unruly.

For gas power, this presents less of a problem; a gas engine will likely power through the overgrowth without really bogging down. But battery-powered mowers tend to stall out when the going gets a little rough.

Ryobi Zero Turn ZT480ex

Such was the case with the Ryobi Zero Turn Mower as well. We had the deck height set at a moderate 2.5″,  but as the grass got thicker, you could hear the mower blades struggle, start to rattle around some, and quit. Of course, they would start right back up as soon as the grass thinned out again, but then we found we’d have to circle back to mow down the choppy-looking mohawk left in the lawn where the blade motors quit. You might experience this with damp grass as well.

Fortunately, Ryobi gives you an option to make it through.

By toggling the low-speed settings (and they’re separate settings) we found that we could ramp up the torque. It let us get through a lot of these harder-to-mow patches of grass. We just couldn’t run through it as quickly. The advantage was that we didn’t have to circle back and re-mow strips of our lawn. As an added bonus, dropping our cutting speed helped us avoid the unsettling sound of the blades grinding and rattling as they struggled to maintain RPMs.

Onboard Conveniences

The ZT480ex has enclosed storage compartments, a cup holder, USB phone charging capabilities, and LED headlights. Personally, I don’t often charge my phone while mowing at night, but that might come down more to having a lack of opportunity. With this mower, I now have the option to give it a shot. Plus, being able to take a couple of cold ones (Editor’s Note: root beers) with me while I work on the lawn makes for a much more adventurous and enjoyable mowing experience.

Easy Adjustments

Both the deck height and seat on the Ryobi Zero Turn Mower are super simple to adjust. In the case of the seat, you’ve got your standard under-seat lever to control the 4-point seat adjustment. As far as the deck height adjustment goes, I generally prefer a foot controlled lift. However, the deck on this mower isn’t particularly heavy, and it’s easy to set the height in any 1/4″ increments between 1-1/2″ and 4-1/2″.

Steering Performance

The ZT480ex goes with what’s become the standard in zero turn steering technology—the lap bar. These generally work really well on gas-powered mowers, but we’ve noticed that sometimes, on electric models, the lap bars trigger the instant torque of the brushless motor. This can make steering very herky-jerky and hard to manage.

However, the steering here feels a lot more natural. It feels responsive without taking off at your slightest movement. This helps with working close against walls and other obstacles. With this Ryobi, the precision is such that I was able to mow the whole lawn and only nick our Editor-in-Chief’s Jeep once!

Pricing

Ryobi’s ZT480ex, with the 100Ah battery upgrade, will run you $4,099. Similar electric zero turn mowers from manufacturers like Mean Green or Greenworks could more than double that price. How does Ryobi keep their price down? The big cost cutter here is the battery. Rather than using a Lithium-ion pack, Ryobi goes with lead-acid batteries for this one. We prefer Lithium-ion batteries to lead-acid, but if you take care of them, they’ll work just fine for several years.

Ryobi strongly suggests that when the mower is not in use you keep it plugged into your standard 120V wall outlet.

This package also includes a towing hitch and the pertinent assembly hardware. Should you be the type of person who likes to bag your clippings, it’s available to you with an optional bagger accessory. The Ryobi Electric Zero Turn Mower comes with a 1-year warranty on the batteries and a 3-year warranty on the mower.

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The Bottom Line

The ZT480ex Ryobi mower is probably not best suited for commercial applications. It has, however, found a nice niche in the homeowner market. It’s well-suited for the homeowner that has a decent sized lot up to 3 acres. It works particularly well for those who stay vigilant against letting the yard get out of control. This is because thicker grass can bog down the blades. This mower does have low-speed settings for both the drive motor and the blade motor, which definitely helps. It just lacks a gas mower’s ability to rip through unruly patches. However, for maintenance cutting, this zero turn mower is quiet, comfortable, and truly does tackle up to 3 acres on a charge.

Ryobi Zero Turn Electric Riding Mower Specs

  • Model Number: ZT480ex
  • Drive Type: Zero Turn
  • Power Type: Cordless Electric
  • Deck Size/Cut Capacity: 42″
  • Cutting Height: 1.5″-4.5″
  • Cut Acres per Charge: Up to 3
  • Battery Capacity: 100Ah
  • Max Speed: 7 MPH
  • Weight: 597 lbs.
  • Battery Warranty: 1-Year Limited
  • Warranty: 3-Year Limited
  • MSRP: $4,099

For more information about the Ryobi Zero Turn Electric Riding Mower, check out Ryobitools.com.

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Clint DeBoerDON AMESKenny KoehlerJeremiah McKennaJeremiah Mckenna Recent comment authors
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DON AMES
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DON AMES

I’ve never owned a zero turn, but have had several gas tractors and one Elec-trak electric tractor. I understand that Ryobi also has an electric tractor model and it sure would be nice to know the advantages and disadvantages of each compared to each other.

Jeremiah Mckenna
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Jeremiah Mckenna

One question though, is the battery stationary or removable, like their cordless tools?

Jeremiah Mckenna
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Jeremiah Mckenna

Ryobi makes decent, home owner DIY level tools, so this should be good for a homeowner with a light intensive mowed yard. But for professionals, they’ll have to wait for Milwaukee or the other top end brands to release their product.