You've never seen a mower like this one!

Recently, a German gardening supply company, Wolf-Garten GmbH & Co., unveiled prototypes of its “Zero”, high-tech riding lawn mower. The name was chosen because the high-tech mower produces little pollution and little noise.

Designed by Cognito Design and Engineering, the Zero is based on the tiny DaimlerChrysler Smart commuter car. The unusual-looking eight-foot-long Smart is sold in Europe and Japan.

Conversion from passenger car to lawn mower required surprisingly little modification to either the mechanics or its thermoplastic-over-steel-frame body. For example, the very short front end is ideal for mowing. Equipped with the latest in emissions equipment including a three-way catalytic converter, the three-cylinder, rear-mounted, 599cc SUPREX (supercharged) engine produces very low emissions. Smart cars can be ordered with either gasoline or diesel versions of the engine. The transmission’s very low first gear was also ready for mowing without modification.

When early models of the Smart were found to be unstable at higher speeds, DaimlerChrysler added a sophisticated electronic-stability system. Happily, this provides the Zero with good traction on wet grass. While able to travel at 4 to 5 mph on a golf course, the Zero also could travel on public highways carrying a two-man crew and their supplies. The Smart has a top speed of over 80 mph.

Rather than normal cutting blades, the Zero uses lasers, which dice and dry clippings. Using a “siltidry” process, grass is chopped into tiny particles that are dried by a jet of air before redistributing them on the lawn. Without rotating blades, which can account for much of the noise coming from a conventional mower, the Zero boasts very quiet operation.

The Smart even comes even a built-in internet capability so you can perform other tasks in the field.

Wolf-Garten has converted three Smarts as prototypes for a mower that could be placed on market for use on large turf areas and golf courses. They won’t be cheap, but Wolf-Garten predicts they may be no more than some high-end professional mowers already on the market.

Some refinement still is needed. For instance, Wolf-Garten is studying the long-term effect of laser cutting on grass. It also is looking for better ways to adjust the laser’s aim and intensity. A key safety issue is insuring that the laser does not point away from the ground when the mowing unit rises while cresting a hill.

The ultimate mower? That remains to be seen. The ultimate ride while mowing? Perhaps!

Source: Bill Siuru (San Diego, Calif.)

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