- Riding Comfort
- Mower Handling and Performance on Hills/Rough Terrain
- Quality of Cut
I must say when I saw this Ryobi battery powered mower I was a bit skeptical. I once had a 20V push mower many years ago and while it did cut surprisingly well, the battery life on it was suspect. I had a medium sized suburban yard at the time and I couldn’t finish mowing the yard in one shot without the battery dying. Fast forward to now and when I saw this mower immediately I had flashbacks of my previous experience.
However, it seems like battery life is no longer an issue and this 100 Ah Ryobi RM480EX model mower is generally very well received on the internet. Let’s take a deeper look.
Not much can be said about the comfort, you are riding on a fairly stiff seat and the mower also goes pretty fast (8mph while not cutting, 5mph while cutting, 3mph in reverse) so chances are unless you are mowing perfectly flat ground the mower will cut faster than you can comfortably mow.
For what it’s worth and for the people that like this feature, this model does have cruise control on it. You will also find a USB charger and a little slot where you could place your phone.
Engine Battery Pack
This is where things get interesting. This Ryobi RM480EX mower is powered by 4 AGM deep cycle batteries linked together to form a 48V system. They are quite heavy and is what gives the mower its massive weight (695 lbs.)
You have a battery indicator to let you know where your charge level is at. Most people report they can cut their whole yard without it even dropping 10%. It is rated for up to 2.5 hours of cutting or 2.5 acres of mowing. (Overall Ryobi rates the mower for yards 1/2 acre to 2 acres in size.)
The batteries are expected to last 3-5 years and will cost somewhere in the range of $500 to $600 to replace. Following the instructions when you get the mower will help the batteries last longer. Fully charge the batteries to start with and any time you’re not using the mower then put it on the charger. The charger runs off regular 110v power.
If fully drained the batteries will take about 12 hours to recharge but most people report they don’t use nearly that much battery (probably mowing 1 acre or less yards.) Here’s where this mower really gets interesting, based on average reports it costs only $.50 to $1 per use to charge the machine, even on a full drain. That’s crazy talk. For me to cut 2.5 acres of grass I’m using at least 2 gallons of gas, over $6 for ethanol free gas. That’s not even counting all the gas I wind up spilling because of the stupid new EPA gas cans. Even when you factor in replacing the batteries every few years you’re still ahead of the game. Without having to deal with storing and pouring gas.
Regarding power, I haven’t seen any complaints at all. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of people mention they think this machine has more power than their 17HP or 20HP riding mower.
Click here to read the full warranty on the Ryobi 38″ Riding Mower
Service Manual for the Ryobi RM480EX Electric Mower
Mower Handling and Performance – Hills/Rough Terrain
WARNING: You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for mowing hills, usually that means don’t mow a slope over 15 degrees. Try to attack the slope in an up and down manner instead of side to side (if you have to lean halfway off the mower to feel stable you’re probably exceeding recommendations!)
The Ryobi RM480EX 38″ Mower sports 16″ rear wheels and 15″ front wheels with a 16″ turning radius. 16″ is about standard for a typical riding mower. What that means is if you make the sharpest turn you can and drive in a circle while cutting grass, it would leave you with an uncut circle that is 32″ wide (half of that makes up the 16″ turning radius) – really it is a marketing gimmick to make you think it turns on a dime (all mower companies use the same language) but is still a good turning radius.
The mower has a good sturdy base, even if it looks like a go cart. It weighs 695 lbs thanks to the 4 AGM batteries in the back of the mower, so all the weight is over the rear tires.
One benefit of this Ryobi electric mower is that the rear DC motor powering the rear axle spins both wheels together like a differential lock. Typical riding mowers will just spin the drive wheel like crazy if you hit any loose spots on your lawn.
The negative here comes into play if you are using this mower on slopes. Specifically going down a hill. It seems to gain momentum and speed going downhill, so much so that you have to use the brakes while going down. Then if you are not quick to accelerate again near the bottom you’ll pretty much come to a complete stop. That is the other complaint, you have to press the accelerator around 40% before it will even engage. The flip side is that everyone says it has plenty of power to pull up the hill.
You do have the option to mow in reverse, but it will sound a backup alarm while you are backing up. This is a safety feature Ryobi has installed.
Like I mentioned before the Ryobi 38″ electric mower will run at 8mph without the blades turning, 5mph while cutting and 3mph in reverse. That is plenty fast for a riding mower and a pretty cool feature that you can get up to 8mph while not mowing. That makes it really useful for larger properties where you may be towing more accessories.
Overall, this mower is rated for flat ground with some obstacles and if you use it for that I think you’ll find it quite adequate. People that use it on hills also mostly seem to love it, just take note of the caveats.
Quality of Cut
This is going to be the most debatable part of this mower. Two brushless DC motors are spinning the two 20″ blades under this 38″ stamped steel 12 gauge deck.
I was reading through some Q&A and noticed Ryobi answered a question about blade speed saying the max speed on this machine is 3700 RPM. That is about as fast as you could safely spin these blades in any mower. This doesn’t seem quite right to me so I wanted to do some investigating.
To find out the max RPM to safely spin a blade at, we can do some math. (Disclaimer: I suck at math and had to find this equation online.)
19000 (maximum safe blade tip speed in feet per minute) / (blade length (20″ in this case) x 3.14 / 12) = Max RPM.
20″ x 3.14 / 12 = 5.23
19000 / 5.23 = 3632.88 RPM
So hopefully when Ryobi states these blades are spinning at about 3700 RPM they really mean no more than 3632 RPM.
Put another way, that equates to 213 MPH or commercial blade tip speed.
So, while I still have my doubts about the actual speed, I will say I have no doubt that it is turning really fast!
I have seen some users say if the grass gets to about 7″ high they would have to make 2 passes for a good, clean cut. Below is a video of someone cutting tall grass with a Ryobi RM480EX electric mower. However, you can see he has the deck as high as it will go and I can kind of see some “corn rows” forming. If you were to cut lower, chances are it would get worse. That being said, it did look like a nice cut and I’m sure in normal conditions it is going to do just fine.
It is important to note that this mower should not be used to cut wet grass, nor should it ever be washed off. You should only use compressed air to clean this machine.
You can get a bagger attachment for the Ryobi RM480EX and the mower itself also has a stamped hole that will handle a typical hitch pin. So you can tow carts, spreaders, sprayers, etc.
This mower offers a lot of value. If you care about the environment and hate dealing with gas and gas cans, regular oil changes, etc. then this mower is for you. Especially if you have a larger yard and just don’t feel like pushing a mower.
If you don’t need to cut as much yard, you can save a couple hundred bucks with this Ryobi RM480E model which is still rated for 2 hours of mow time or 2 acres of cutting.
All in all, I came away quite impressed with this mower which I didn’t think would happen when I initially looked at it.
Keep in mind that when this mower is shipped to you, you will have to assemble it.
Here is a video of what that entails:
Affiliate Disclaimer – if you decide to purchase a mower based on my review, I do get a small piece of the sale. It helps to keep the lights on around here. I am very passionate about lawns and mowers and offer my unbiased review towards everything that goes on this site. I research several pages, specs, videos, forums and other reviews of each mower before I post about it so you don’t have to. If I wouldn’t buy it myself, I wouldn’t recommend it to you either.
Patrick Reyn - June 4, 2019 @ 22:17
I started my third summer with my Ryobi riding mower but found my batteries only lasted about 45 minutes. I followed the instructions and kept it in my garage all winter and plugged into the charger. So it seems I only got two full summers on my battery pack. I was told to expect three to five summers but now realize the batteries are only warranted for one year.
Also, I found that Home Depot does not carry any accessories to include blades or batteries. One battery on-line lists for $179.00 at the Ryobi store. You do the math to replace four batteries. And they are no longer stocking the Ryobi rider. This makes me concerned.
I liked going all electric but if I only get two years per pack I am not sure I will continue. I think if you buy one of these machine, consider getting an extended warranty.
I started my third summer with my Ryobi riding mower but found my batteries only lasted about 45 minutes. I followed the instructions and kept it in my garage all winter and plugged into the charger. So it seems I only got two full summers on my ba
cs - July 4, 2022 @ 16:31
its expensive and my batteries are dead after exactly 2 years, so the ryobi warranty is one year and the hd cc gives me another and it dies right after… i probably only mow 2 or 3 times a month in summer and go a few months without mowing at all in winter, about 1 acre of grass. so significantly less use than it claims should be fine.
its bouncy, would be nice to have some kind of shock absorber to save some of my spine.
its not nearly as powerful as a gas mower when the grass is tall and thick, i have to slow down to a crawl. but my grass gets like a foot tall and thick af if i let it go 2 weeks in summer. so ymmi
overall i like it, no gas, no oil, and significantly quieter. but its either the charger or the batteries that are just not up to the job. im seriously considering dropping a big lifepo4 pack in there and calling it a day. lead acid just isnt made for draining like that. I got this mower with the intention of basically having a modular frame that i could replace things on as i went. was just hoping i wouldnt *have* to so early…
its expensive and my batteries are dead after exactly 2 years, so the ryobi warranty is one year and the hd cc gives me another and it dies right after… i probably only mow 2 or 3 times a month in summer and go a few months without mowing at al
Kevin Bush - August 11, 2022 @ 11:39
I bought the 480ex. LOVE IT. I followed all the recommendations from Ryobi but my batteries died just over a year out. Unreal! Called Ryobi and did everything I could to resolve the issue. Nothing! Took it to a authorized Ryobi repair service and he let me know the batteries were done. I have 12 hours on the mower! $1500 to replace the batteries and only a new 30 day warranty. When I picked up my lawn mower from the service location there were 6 other riding mowers with the same issue. Buying a $3400 mower and having batteries go bad isn’t worth it. There is a problem
I bought the 480ex. LOVE IT. I followed all the recommendations from Ryobi but my batteries died just over a year out. Unreal! Called Ryobi and did everything I could to resolve the issue. Nothing! Took it to a authorized Ryobi repair service