Cordless electric chainsaws can be a hit or miss affair. They all sound great. No gas-oil to fool with, no cord, and no maintenance to speak of. But some sacrifice power or have expensive batteries that make the idea better in theory than in practice. Fortunately, the Greenworks 20312 is an exception. In fact, it is exceptional in many ways.
16″ Bar Length
The Greenworks 20312 is a cordless electric chainsaw. I’ll cover the battery in a little bit, but first some basics. After all, if a cordless doesn’t have the size, power, and other features to do the job, all the fancy technology would be useless. Luckily, the Greenworks 20312 has all that well covered.
For example, the bar length is Goldilocks-length for a lot of jobs. At 16 inches, it’s not the longest available, even in an electric chainsaw. But that medium length is enough to get a wide range of tree cutting jobs done in a jiffy. It’s also easier for novices to handle.
Trimming the largest branches is straightforward. Even a moderate-sized gas-powered chainsaw won’t necessarily offer better ease of use here. Certainly, it’s easy to get an 18″, 20″ or larger in a gas model, and even some electrics. But cordless bar lengths tend to be smaller, often much smaller.
However, because of that bar size – and the unusually large battery – the 20312 is a little heavier than the average electric model. At about 11 lbs it’s not a bear, by any means. But it is considerably beefier than the 12″ Greenworks model.
40V Lithium-Ion Battery
Naturally, part of the reason for that bulk is that it simply takes a substantial battery to deliver the kind of power the 20312 offers.
In this case, that means a 40V Li-ion. And, interestingly, it’s removable not just for replacement but for use on a dozen other Greenworks devices, if you have them. And, you can swap in a spare if you want to keep working after this one draws down.
Personally, I don’t find those voltage ratings much help. So, I’ll note that the power pack here is a 4000 mAh. For those not familiar with cordless electric chainsaw batteries, that unit is definitely at the top end right now. The average, and still very good, cordless will typically offer something around the 2000 mAh range. This cordless offers that as an alternative.
The 20312 will typically deliver about a half-hour or more of cutting time at full power, possibly as much as an hour. The large variation in runtime is the only honest way to state it. So much depends on how you use your chainsaw. Greenworks says “with a single charge you can cut up to one cord of wood 6.5-inch diameter logs, 4-foot lengths, stacked 8 feet wide and 4 feet high”.
I’d say that’s not very realistic. Half that is about right, as shown by real-world use. I cut my logs a lot shorter than that for the stove inside the house – as short as 12″ sometimes. But it gives you a rough guideline. It takes about two hours to fully recharge the 4Ah battery and about an hour to fully recharge the 2Ah battery.
Equally important, maybe more so in the long run, it has a greatly enhanced recycle capacity: 2000 cycles, according to the manual. Most rechargeable electric batteries – whether for your laptop, robot vacuum cleaner, or otherwise – will get half that in real-world use. In fact, many laptop batteries today will be lucky to get 500 cycles.
The 20312 hasn’t been on the market long enough to test that claim. But Greenworks has a good reputation for straightforward specs. I’m a little skeptical, but willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
Naturally, how that number translates into total time of use – and therefore how soon you need to replace the battery – is hard to say. If you use it daily, you can expect at least a couple of years, maybe as long as four. If you use it less often you might get as much as five to seven.
Anyone doing the math to check my estimates may notice they don’t correspond closely to 2000 / 365 days, for example. That’s because charge cycles don’t tell the whole story. Any lithium battery will degrade over time, charged or not. Also, while you may be able to recharge it X number of times, eventually it will deliver less-than-new power after it has aged.
Batteries vary a lot in both those respects so only real-world testing can tell you very accurately how this will pan out. And, as I said, the 20312 hasn’t been around long enough to know for sure. Still, if it were me, I’d feel pretty comfortable buying this model.
That said, the 4000 mAh replacement battery (Greenworks 29472) is around $100 – $130 currently (from Amazon). That’s roughly half the total cost of the chainsaw. The 2000 mAh battery (Greenworks 29462) that fits this model sells for about 60% of that, $50 – $100. Either way, that’s a significant chunk of the original purchase price. However, that’s the nature of a cordless chainsaw, at least as the battery technology and economics stands at the moment.
Five years from now, who knows? There’s a ton of research going on in this area and we’ve already seen remark improvements in tablets and laptops in the past year. So, the replacements might very well be lower priced and/or longer-lasting before you need one.
Power & Ergonomics
Issues of cost and replacement time aside, there’s a lot to love about the Greenworks 20312.
One is the amount of torque it gets out of that power plant, 30% more than older models. One reason for that power is the brushless design of the motor. It delivers more, while ensuring the motor will last longer. It’s helpful that it also aids in reducing noise.
It’s also very helpful that this unit maintains full power until the battery is very close to dead. There’s no gradual fading. On the other hand, you don’t get much warning either. So, it’s useful to keep track of how long you used it in one session.
Another fine attribute is how low the vibration level is. Throwing out “70% less” than average doesn’t tell you much. Suffice to say, you won’t get hand fatigue anywhere near as quick with this unit as a similar-sized gas-powered chainsaw. Of course, since this isn’t a gas model you don’t have any gas-oil to fool with.
Just as great is that it starts with the tap of a button. I’ve spent many a cold morning tugging multiple times on my otherwise-superb Stihl gas chainsaw. This baby starts like a dream.
Safety features are built right in from the get-go. The chain brake is easy to use but secure. The hand guard is a good size. The quick-release trigger ups the safety margin even further.
Greenworks 20312 Summary
The Greenworks 20312 cordless electric chainsaw offers high-power in a well-balanced unit with a good chain brake. It can be adjusted without tools. The replacement battery is a little costly, but that’s true of any cordless now. The improvement in recharge cycles will help defray that cost.
And, for those who already have a G-MAX battery and charger, there’s a model that sells without them: the Greenworks 20322. A great way to get this chainsaw at a great price.