The electric future for agricultural equipment

electric tractorCar manufacturers are making great strides in electric drive technology and the death of diesel and petrol engines is on the horizon. This revolution is happening for larger vehicles too. For some types of farm vehicles, like loaders and mixer-feeder wagons, electric drive is already here. Soon there will be tractors, with three companies planning to sell electric models in the next two years.

According to Professor Peter Pickel, deputy director of John Deere’s European Technology Centre, the electrification of tractors offers three key advantages.

First is increased efficiency. A diesel engine achieves about 35% efficiency in converting thermal to mechanical energy. Compare that with the overall efficiency of charging batteries at 80%, while electric motors have an efficiency of 90%.

Second, he says electrical power offers greater controllability and opportunities for automation. One example is precision seeding. The Exact Emerge system from John Deere for single seed placing uses electric motors to place seeds within 1cm accuracy.

Professor Pickel sees it as a complete system where the battery is removable and is part of the farm’s electricity grid. This would bring battery utilisation up to 96%.

So with these benefits, German manufacturer Fendt and India-based firm Escorts have just launched electric models. However, both are at the lower end of the horsepower range, with Fendt’s e100 Vario being the more powerful, offering 67hp.

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