RYOBI 80V Zero Turn Mower Review
RYOBI 80V Electric Zero Turn Mower Review – Model RYRM8021
RYOBI 80v Electric Zero-Turn Mower
Model number: Z42Li
Power source: 80v
RYOBI first introduced these Zero Turn mowers back in March of 2022 where they highlighted three new 80V Zero Turn mowers. The mowers ranged in deck sizes 30”, 42”, and 54”. We took a look at the Z42Li – 42” mower for our review. Let’s cut to the chase and get started.
A third-party carrier service delivered the 80V Electric Zero Turn directly. There is some assembly required.
Assembly includes installing the seat back, the joystick, the towing plate, and the discharge chute. Installing all these items should take about 15 minutes and the tools are provided. Click here for installation videos from RYOBI on the complete installation process.
Our first look at these mowers was at the GIE Show in Louisville KY in October of 2022. RYOBI set up a slalom course out of hay bails. Immediately upon sitting on the seat, we noticed the seat suspension felt really comfortable. The power control joystick reminded us of a video game. I was immediately brought back to my days playing Mario Cart!
Upon delivery, the same impressions struck me. The seat was super comfortable and the joystick was easy to operate.
Features and Specifications
The RYOBI RYRM8021 is a piece of equipment with many features. This area has a number of topics that need to be covered.
RYRM8021 | MFG Specifications
- Power Equivalent: 31HP
- Deck Material: 12ga Heavy Duty Steel
- Cutting Height: 1-½” – 4-½”
- Max Speed: 8 MPH
- iDrive Joystick Control
- Touch Screen Control Panel
- Four 21” cross-cut blades
The Control panel, located on the left side of the mower, is easy to navigate. It has a bright LED screen and 5 intuitive buttons to operate. The buttons include:
- Driving Speed
- LED Lights
- Battery Life
- Bluetooth Connectivity
- Blade Speed
The RYOBI Z42Li has three-speed settings. Low, Medium, and High. The touch of a button switches the speed and can be done while in motion. This Shift-on-the-go transmission is a simple and convenient way to adjust the speed and power of the mower. With this feature, you no longer have to stop and get off the mower to manually shift gears.
It’s recommended to start at low speed and work your way up to higher speeds as needed. Max speed is 8 mph, Medium is 6 mph, and low at 4 mph. On all of our run-time tests, we cut at low speed.
The zero-turn mower is equipped with 2 bright LED headlights that are great for cutting during dusk hours.
The battery life indicator shows the total battery life left on all batteries installed on the mower. The middle bars show the life of the 80V batteries and the sides will indicate the percentage left on the additional 40V batteries if you have them installed.
If you hit the battery life button twice it will show you the amount of hours left before you should conduct a check of your blades. RYOBI sets the check after 25 hours. Check the blades for sharpness, dings, and alignment.
Bluetooth connectivity requires the Ryobi Riding Mower app. With the App, you can monitor the run-time, battery level, and charge status, and adjust blade and drive speeds.
The blade speed is similar to the drive speed and has low, medium, and high. All our cutting was done at high blade speed.
Right Side Settings
On the right side of the mower just behind the operating joystick, there are 4 features on this control panel.
- Clear Chute Bagger
- Blade Engage Knob
- Keyed On/Off
- Covered USB Port
Clear Bagger Chute
The bagger chute receives a strong 700 CFM gust when the bagger boost button is depressed. This facilitates the removal of grass clumps and blockages. Without this feature, you would have to stop the mower, shut it down, and manually clean the chute if it becomes clogged.
Blade Engage Knob
The blade engage knob is located on the right side of the mower, directly behind the joystick. It is huge and red in color to facilitate identification. When you pull up on the knob, it engages the blades. To disengage the blades, you simply press the knob down. The blades have a small ramp-up stage but almost immediately shut off when you push the knob in. This type of knob is common on riding lawnmowers.
Keyed On / Off Switch
All the RYOBI 80v Electric Zero Turn mowers come with keys to turn the mower on and off and are required in order to operate the mower. The ZT mower came with three sets of keys.
There is a covered USB port for easy charging of your mobile devices while operating the mower. This is a USB-A port and is located behind the blade engage knob. It has a charging power of
5 volts DC at up to 2 amps and has a waterproof cover.
The mower key needs to be in the ON position for the USB port to work. There is an additional covered USB-A port in the right rear battery compartment.
Other Storage Compartments
There are three additional storage compartments on the Ryobi RYRM8021 one under the driver’s seat, 2 slotted cellphone compartments, and the other in the rear battery compartment. The compartment under the seat is fairly shallow and does not offer much storage. We store our USB cord and the manuals in this compartment.
The rear compartment is larger and can fit larger items such as a pair of pruning snips. The second USB-A port is located in this compartment, making phone storage an option.
iDrive Joystick Control
The RYOBI Z42Li is a rear-wheel drive mower operated by a joystick that uses an intuitive one-handed joystick steering to maneuver around objects more easily than a traditional zero-turn mower.
My experience with the joystick wasn’t pretty to start, it took some time working on mower maneuvering and getting used to the feel of the joystick prior to mowing.
When you pull up the joystick the mower power is “engaged.” Once the parking brake is released you are ready to move. The mower joystick has to be centered in the neutral position in order to “disengage” or lock the mower. Standard positions are forward, reverse, right, and left. As I mentioned, using the joystick requires a learning curve, I needed to keep remembering to lock the joystick. I would press the brake but forget to lock the mower.
There is an audible alarm built in that will sound when you get off the mower without engaging the parking brake. We feel this alarm is a great safety feature. It is tough to hear if you are wearing hearing protection or earbuds. Perhaps RYOBI would consider some type of flashing light warning you that the brake is not engaged.
Air-Ride Suspension Seat
The air-ride seat suspension is controlled by a dial on the seat front that increases and decreases the spring pressure on the seat. Turning the knob left achieves a decrease in spring tension, and turning it right achieves an increase in tension. A spring-loaded bar under the seat controls the seat’s forward or backward adjustments for taller / shorter operators.
Both armrests are adjustable up and down which makes mounting the seat from the side easier. You can also set the height of the armrests by removing the two bolts on the armrest from the frame and setting it to your desired height.
There is also a knob under the left armrest that allows it to extend out further for better comfort for taller users. The right armrest does not extend because it would interfere with the joystick.
We appreciated the two large cup holders on the left side under the armrest.
- 42” Zero Turn Mower
- Two 80V suitcase-style batteries
- Two 40V batteries
- Side Discharge
- Mulching Door attachment
- 80V Charging Station
Direct Drive |Benefits
One of the major benefits of battery powered mowers is having the motors directly attached to the blade spindles. Gas mowers have a power take off pulley and a series of belts that transfer power to the blades. By directly driving each blade with a motor the mower can deliver much more efficient and stronger torque compared to a gas powered mower. This really shines when cutting tall thick wet grass.
The other benefit is the lack of belts to maintain and change. Anyone that’s had to change belts on a mower deck knows it’s not ever easy or fun!
RYOBI RYRM8021 | Performance
Whether commercial or residential use, run-time, aside from price, is probably the most talked about topic. RYOBI states that the Z42Li mower will cut up to 3 acres on a full charge, using all 4 batteries included in the kit (two 80V 10 amp-hour and two 40V 12 amp-hour batteries) with the blade speed on low and the drive speed on high.
A lot of factors affect run-time, for example, how fast, and how much grass you are cutting impact run-time. The blades use the majority of the energy, the lower you set the blade speed the more run-time you will get.
Our Run-time Testing
Living in the city, the properties that are larger than one acre of land are very few and far between. For our testing we had all the batteries charged up and started cutting. We cut two separate properties in the neighborhood. Both properties are similar in size. One was .31 acres with slopes and the other was .33 acres and completely flat. The .31 acres were mowed at 3” height a total of four times. The other property was also cut at 3” a total of 2 times.
Property One – .31 acres x four cuts = 1.24 acres
Property Two – .33 acres x two cuts = 0.66 acres
Our total combined run-time over 6 cuts was 1.9 acres. This was on speed setting low and blade speed high. The grass on average was between 3-½” to 4-½” in overall height.
Several times during these cuts, the mower was stopped and the blades disengaged to move lawn furniture or kids’ toys and then re-engaged to start again. There were times when the mower was driven on the pavement to and from the properties. All of these things definitely contributed to the lower acreage covered. RYOBI uses low blade, high drive whereas we used high blade low drive.
RYOBI also has a low battery indicator that comes up on the main LED Control screen. The low battery indicator had just come on when finishing our final cut. The alert message on the control panel was “Your Blades will Soon Shut Off Due to Low Battery.” This occurs when there is less than 10% battery life left, leaving enough battery power to return to the charging area.
Quality of Cut
This Ryobi zero-turn mower has four 21″ cross-cut blades. Cross-cut blades are designed to produce exceptionally thin grass clippings, making side discharge, bagging, and mulching with mowers more efficient.
Due to the height of the grass on our first cut with the Z42Li, we utilized the mulching attachment in the discharge chute. The mulching attachment eliminates the long clippings issue due to the cross-cut blades cutting them multiple times instead of shooting them out of the discharge chute.
Mowing On Sloped Areas
The weight of this mower is about 700 pounds and injury from tipping or rolling the lawn mower can be severe or even fatal.
RYOBI Slope Recommendations
- Slopes under 15° w/o bagger attachment
- Slopes under 10° w/ bagger attachment
Always mow slopes up and down, never side to side. Additionally, cutting on wet grass can cause the tires to lose traction and could result in sliding when cutting on uneven terrain.
We tested the Ryobi mower, in mulching mode, on slopes ranging from 10° to 23° and found that the mower had plenty of power to climb these slopes.
Setting the Cutting Height
RYOBI recommends the user adjust the cutting wheels approximately ½” off the ground when the mower is at your desired cutting height. We set our wheels to 1.5” height, which worked perfectly for us. There are three positions available for the cutting wheel height: 1-½”, 1-¾”, and 2-¼. Remove the 24mm nut and bolt from the cutting wheel. Find the desired position re-insert the nut and tighten the bolt between 4 and 6 Ft-Lbs.
We found setting the deck height extremely easy. There are a total of 12 preset settings at ¼” increments. The lowest deck height is 1-½” and the maximum height is 4-½”. There are large, white ID marks at 1-½”, 2”, 2-½”, 3”, 3-½”, 4” and 4-½” and we found them easy to see
Another nice feature Ryobi has is the auto-stop plug. This plug prevents the deck height adjustment handle from moving accidentally. This is important in case you accidentally move the height adjustment while operating. Also, it allows faster, more efficient raising and lowering of the deck, and the auto stop remembers your initial height setting.
The Ryobi Z42Li operates only on 80v suitcase-style battery packs and requires one battery to operate. The zero-turn mower will not operate on 40v batteries, even if you have four of them on board. The mower comes with two 80v suit-case-style batteries but can hold three in total. Additionally, there are spots to add four 40v batteries to boost run time.
The mower draws power from the larger 80v batteries, automatically balancing the load between them. The 40v batteries extend runtime by adding additional energy as the 80v batteries get low.
The RYOBI RYRM8021 is extremely quiet for a riding lawnmower. OSHA calls for no more than 90 decibels over an 8-hour working day.
Being a taller rider at 6’1” we measured the noise decibel at ear level. We measured 82.7 dB on our Decibel X app for the iPhone.
RYRM8021 | Maintenance
There are a few options for charging the 80v batteries on the Z42Li with the provided wall mounting charger. You can charge the 80v batteries one of two ways.
- Charging Port
- Individual Battery Charging
At the rear of the mower is a charging port that can be attached to the charger plug and will charge the batteries sequentially
Individual Charging for 8oV Batteries
If you do not have a dedicated 20 amp circuit to use the charging plug you can charge one battery at a time, by inserting the charging port directly into each battery. An LED screen, on the battery, shows the battery’s charge status.
Individual Charging for 4oV Batteries
In order to charge the additional 40V batteries, you must remove them and charge them individually with a 40V charger
A large yellow latch secures each battery in place. To remove, turn the latch clockwise.
Bagger Accessory | Sold Separately
The bagger for this mower is sold separately, as an accessory, at Home Depot for $599.00. The model number is ACRM026. This bagging system will be the subject of a separate, stand-alone review this fall.
To purchase this bagger accessory, click this link: Bagger Ryobi with Boost
Gas vs. Electric Cost Savings
We will try and break it down when comparing gas costs to the cost of a battery and the warranty coverage on the 2-acre average we have been cutting. This will give you an idea of what you could be saving in gas costs.
The current average cost of a gallon of gas is $3.98. The average zero-turn gas mower has a 3-gallon gas tank. The cost to fill the tank is $11.94
One gallon of gas will roughly cut 2 acres of grass, therefore one 3-gal tank of gas will cut 6 acres and for us, that is 3 cuts
In New England, we have about 30 weeks of mowing (April to November) and typically we cut once a week. This gives us 30 total cuts
$11.94 per tank multiplied by 10 tanks (30 cuts) per year = $119.40 annual cost in gasoline –
The RYOBI 80v batteries have a 5-year battery warranty for personal or household use. They also have a 2-year warranty for commercial or rental use.
2-year warranty period/gas cost estimate (commercial/rental use) = $238.80
5-year warranty period/gas cost estimate (personal/homeowner use) = $597.00
RYOBI claims their 42″ Z42Li will save you over $2400 in a 5-year period. Going to an electric mower means you will not have to worry about gas, oil, belts, or hoses.
My Overall Experience
Operating this mower has been a great experience for me. When I put it through its paces for this review or tested it at the GIE Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in October 2022, I found it to be incredibly comfortable to use. It took me some time, however, to get used to it. My yard has never looked this fantastic, and the cut quality is excellent.
Coming from the 21″ Whisper Series Walk Behind Mower which was also a professional-grade machine, this Z42Li is the cream of the crop that RYOBI is producing.
Final Thoughts | Cost
We are not making a sales pitch in this review to convince you to buy a cordless lawn mower. We are only arming you with the most knowledge we can about a cordless mower that might end up saving you money over time.
Gas prices are still volatile in the US, and cordless OPE solutions are becoming more prevalent. Given that, these electric lawnmowers require a significant investment. This machine costs $5,999.00. When it comes to long-term costs and savings, this is something you really need to break down. The usage of cordless mowers by households and professional landscapers is rising, and RYOBI keeps upping its game with mowers like this Z42Li 80v electric zero-turn mower.
RYOBI offers a 5-year warranty on their batteries for homeowner/personal use. They have a 2-year warranty for commercial or rental use.
About the author
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