POLSON – Take a look at the technology Core Outdoor Power uses to build gas-less equipment for lawn care and you might assume Lincoln Jore, who helped develop it, had a degree in engineering.
“No, I’m a college dropout,” Jore, a Ronan native, says. “There’s something to be said for growing up in an area like this, without many services. You’ve got to be able to fix your own truck, figure out things on your own. I’m a big believer in duct tape – you can fix anything with duct tape. That, and baling wire, will take you anywhere.”
So, evidently, will circuit boards and permanent magnets.
About a dozen years ago Jore and others began fiddling around with VCR motor technology and trying to design gas-less, cordless power equipment that could compete with traditional grass and weed trimmers, blowers and hedge trimmers.
Their first circuit board, he says, “would get hot, but it wouldn’t spin anything. We’d wired it backwards. It took a year and a half to get one to work.”
From such humble beginnings has sprung a 20,000-square-foot production facility along Kerr Dam Road in Polson, where Core Outdoor Power manufactures grass and weed trimmers, blowers and hedge trimmers Jore says can beat the power, torque and efficiency of gas models.
Production began in 2012. Core Outdoor Power, a division of Core Motion, sold 55,000 units last year, and it’s just getting started.
In a back room of the building, Core engineer Sam Arber is removing the gas engine off a New Zealand-built gas lawn mower – it’s made by Masport, a company Core is working with – and replacing it with something roughly the size of two pie tins placed together.
The result is a gas-less lawn mower as sleek as a race car. Two prototypes are cutting grass around the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., this year for Ruppert Landscape, one of Core’s customers.
Once Core is ready to mass produce them, Jore estimates the mowers will retail for about $1,000, several hundred dollars pricier than many models and about $150 more than the top-of-the-line Honda lawnmower.
But they’ll never need a drop of gas.
“It’ll be a huge savings for commercial landscapers, who can spend $1,500 on gas in one year,” Jore says. “There’s a gal with a $30 million company that takes care of almost all of downtown Chicago who spends $750,000 a year on fuel. We can shave that down to $20,000 for what they’d pay for electricity.”
A “power cell” runs the equipment, and Jore says it costs about three cents to recharge it. Commercial landscapers and “prosumers” – buyers who want professional-grade equipment – are key targets for Core, which already has 1,700 dealers in addition to its online sales.
Core is also developing a kit so anyone can swap out a gas engine on their lawnmower for one of their ironless, wireless units.
“You just have to undo three bolts, unhook one cable, swap the power out and re-hook them,” Jore says. It should take one wrench and about 10 to 15 minutes. Jore is hopeful the kits can retail for under $500.
Arber is also adapting the technology to chainsaws, pruners and edgers.
“We’ll get to riding mowers eventually,” Jore says.
Core stands for “conductor optimized rotary energy.” Its simplicity belies the six years it took for Lincoln and his father Matt to help develop it.
“It’s just two housings, two bearings, two magnets, a shaft and a (printed circuit board) stator,” Jore says.
The Core website goes into more detail. They embed copper-etched conductors into multilayered printed circuit boards to form an efficient, compact and powerful stator that works in conjunction with permanent magnets to produce torque.
Already a major manufacturer of similar gas-powered equipment has forbidden stores that carry its products from carrying Core if they want to remain a dealer for the big company, according to Jore.
“I take that as a compliment,” Jore says.
His father and uncle were founders of Jore Corp., a Ronan tool company that once employed 600 people before it was forced into bankruptcy in 2001.
“The best thing that happened to me was the Jore bankruptcy,” Lincoln Jore says. “I watched the rise and fall of that. As a kid, we’d drive around with my dad while he sold tools out of the trunk of his car. We went from being broke, to being wealthy, to having it all taken away. It was a huge learning curve for my family, but it was good for my character.”
Now, Jore says, competitors have already tried to purchase Core Outdoor Power, but he is focused on building the Core brand, and excited about the opportunities the technology makes possible.
There are chainsaws and riding lawnmowers to be tackled, and a host of other gas-powered machinery that Core might one day try to replace with circuit boards and magnets.