8″ Ion Electric Battery Powered Ice Auger Product Review + Tips and Recommendations for Use and Battery Life
A couple weeks ago, my coworker Ken Hayes and I headed to a local ice fishing show, where we both picked up important pieces of equipment we hoped would improve our 2013-2014 ice fishing season. While Ken picked up a new portable shelter (see his thoughts on his purchase), I was in need of a new ice auger.
After inheriting a hand auger and relying on that for a few years (or relying on fishing buddies with power augers), the time had finally come to treat myself to an easier way to punch holes in the ice. Living in an apartment and having no garage space to store a gas auger made a gasless auger seem like a promising venture, so I did some research and plopped down my hard-earned cash for an Ion ice auger at a show price that was cheaper than the retail price of $499. With options between a 6" and 8" model, I went with the 8" model for those lunkers I'll surely be catching.
What's In The Box/First Impressions
Opening the box, you'll find the head, auger (with attached blades), 12" extension, battery, charger, and hex key for assembly/maintenance. You'll need to attach the head to the auger, which is simply putting a bolt in and tightening it. I opted not to use the extension immediately, but it could come in handy later in the season.
The battery does come with a charge on it, but I spoke with an engineer from the manufacturer who recommended giving it a full charge before I use it (more on the battery later). The engineer was very willing to answer my list of questions and was even honest enough to say his product isn't built for every kind of ice fisherman.
I was rather impressed with both he and the other individual from Ion that I dealt with at the show. While it was an ice fishing show sales environment and they were aiming to see me buy their product, the knowledge they offered, after-purchase support promised, and the fact that it's a company based in this region (in Cumberland, WI) made for a good customer experience.
One thing that I thought was a nice touch, was a battery bag that was offered for free at the expo where I bought the auger. The bag is designed to hold two batteries plus has plus hand warmers in interior pouches to keep the batteries warm. The bag also offers some insulation against cold, snow, and ice. It is available on the Ion website's accessories page, but doesn't have a price listed.
The battery designed for these units is a 40 volt lithium ion battery, which is one of the most durable and reliable styles of rechargeable batteries on the market, used in power tools and other devices. The company rates the battery for 40 holes through 2 feet of ice with the 8" model (like mine) and up to 72 holes through 2 feet of ice with the 6" model (make sense...less area being drilled, less work on the motor/battery).
The battery itself is about 4" X 6" X 8" and is a considerable amount of the overall weight of the pretty light auger. The battery has a button and three indicator lights to show the battery level, which is convenient when you're on the lake. The charger is similar to that of many power tools, about 8" X 12" with charging indicator lights.
As I mentioned above, I spoke with an engineer from the company who gave some good advice about getting the most of the battery. First and foremost, he recommended giving the battery a full charge before each use. The battery takes between 2-3 hours for a full charge, but can sit on the charger overnight if needed. He did recommend not keeping the battery on the charger for more than 24 hours, however.
My biggest question/concern was how a battery-powered auger would run in extreme cold, like what we've seen much of this season so far. His response was that the body/head of the auger could sit outside for days in excessive cold and run just fine when the battery was inserted. The battery itself should be kept "relatively warm", which can be done using the accessory bag and hand warmers as described above, or you could keep it in your truck/fish house, or even in your jacket if you need to. Temperatures above 20 degrees won't be too hard on the battery if it sits for awhile, but conditions below that, efforts should be made to keep the battery at least somewhat warm.
According to the engineer from Ion, he says a battery will take about 700 recharges before a reduction in performance will be noticed. When you break that down, if you go out fishing 100 times a year with this thing, that's still about 7 years worth of charges. Replacement batteries can be purchased from the Ion website, and they retail at $159.99. Not exactly cheap, but if properly cared for, a solid long-term investment.
Use and Performance
The first day I hit the ice with my new auger, the temperature was around 15 degrees. I poked about 20 holes through roughly 12 inches of ice with the same ease of gas augers I've used in the past. When I was done, I popped the battery in the battery bag, and fished for about 4 hours. By the time sunset rolled around, I popped the battery back in, and drilled another two holes with the same ease as the first bunch.
One thing that I was particularly impressed with was the lack of loud engine noise. The sound of cutting ice and a quiet motor hum was all that was heard. On top of that, I didn't smell like exhaust, which was certainly welcome. Another welcome surprise was the lightness of the unit. It weighs in at 22 pounds fully-assembled, with the battery pack installed. This is a far cry from the over 30 pounds many gas augers weigh in at. During my travel on and off the ice, I had the battery in the battery bag inside a bucket, making the carrying weight of the auger even lighter.
When you hit the "throttle", there is a delay of about a 2 seconds, and the auger kicks into full speed. No yanking on a cord multiple times and fiddling with a choke. According to the engineer I spoke to, the delay is a safety measure to make sure it isn't an accidental trigger push. While it was a little strange to have that little delay, I got used to it pretty quickly and didn't find it annoying in the least.
In later uses over the past couple weeks with temperatures varying between 5 degrees and 20 degrees, I had the same reliable experience. During the colder days, I did keep the battery in my coat, which seemed to be enough warmth for the battery. It was a little bulky, but functional.
One thing I will admit is that I haven't "maxed out" the battery to see if I can really get 40 holes through 2 feet of ice. In the 15-25 holes I've drilled in each use (through 12-16 inches of ice), I haven't noticed any sort of a slowdown, but I can't speak to the extreme limits of the hole count yet.
Maintenance and Off-Season
Beside the battery there really isn't much maintenance for this auger. Obviously blades will need to be sharpened or replaced from time to time and the unit should be stored in a dry location for long periods, but there is no need to worry about prepping the device for the offseason. Also, it doesn't need to be hung upright being there is no gas or oil that can leak out of the unit.
As far as the battery goes, the engineer I talked to said the battery should be removed from the device over the offseason (or any prolonged non-use time...longer than a week or two). During the offseason months, you should give the battery a couple charges to make sure the battery maintains a charge. He recommended twice during the offseason, and suggested setting a reminder on my phone or computer to remind me to throw the battery on the charger a couple times in the warm weather months.
While I'm not totally sure of the extreme limits of the battery yet, I am quite happy with the performance I've received so far from my 8" Ion Auger. When drilling, it seems to keep up hole-for-hole with gas-powered augers that have been on the ice with me. The lightweight body and gas and exhaust free experience is fantastic, and the unit perfectly fits my fishing style. My initial concern about performance in the cold has been pretty well extinguished, as if it is THAT cold out, I will either have my house set up to keep me (and the battery) warm, or I won't be out on the lake anyway. I could see how folks that need 10"+ holes, regularly deal with 3+ feet of ice, or go on long excursions to remote locations might not find electric to be the most user friendly; but for the casual to slightly more than casual fisherman, this seems to be a great investment so far, and I look forward to many more trips out on the ice with it!