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New electric tractor a quieter, reduced-emission option for dairy work

Progressive Dairy Editor Walt Cooley Published on 12 January 2022
Electric tractor

Working in the renewable energy field for 50 years, Stephen Heckeroth found an advantageous use for heavyweight batteries.

“The tractor is the ideal electric vehicle because the biggest problem with most electric cars is the battery weight, and tractors need weight,” Heckeroth says. For a tractor, the heavy battery adds traction.

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On the Solectrac e70N electric tractor, the exchangeable battery pack can be placed on the front or back of the tractor to balance out an attached implement.

Heckeroth, founder and chief innovation officer of Solectrac, explains the 70-horsepower category e70N (narrow) was designed for vineyards, but they will also start building an e70W (wide), which will be better suited for dairies and other types of farms. The company already offers the compact electric tractor (CET) with loader, industrial tires, power steering and four-wheel drive that could be suited for smaller tasks on a dairy.

The Solectrac e70N electric tractor, unveiled at World Dairy Expo, is a 100% battery-powered electric tractor with four-wheel drive and power steering offers all the power of a similar-sized diesel tractor but eliminates the exhaust and associated emissions and noise while providing instant torque.

“When you use a diesel tractor, you’re putting way more carbon in the air than you could ever sequester,” he says. “If you use an electric tractor, charged by the sun, it’s zero emissions. We can make agriculture a carbon sequester in every way. Then we can start slowing down the process that’s causing climate change and hopefully someday reverse it.”

Operators and anyone in the vicinity of the electric tractor don’t have to breathe in exhaust or worry about hearing loss.

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“It’s very quiet. You can talk while you’re on the tractor doing work, so it’s ideal for harvest time in the vineyards or around livestock and horses,” Heckeroth says.

An electric tractor doesn’t need to idle and has maximum torque at 0 rpm.

Since it only uses energy when doing work, it can run for four to eight hours on a single charge. This can be extended with an exchangeable battery pack, to which Heckeroth holds the patent.

Since there is no idling, electric motors are 95% efficient in energy use. In addition, regenerative braking recharges the batteries every time the operator slows down the speed, puts the brakes on or goes down a hill.

The battery can be charged in about six hours by plugging into a 220V outlet or a solar array.

“When you have an exchangeable battery pack, you can start your work on the exchangeable pack and then charge it while you are using the on-board pack, so you can run continuously,” he explains.

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A battery management system shuts off the charge when the batteries get up to a certain voltage. It does the same at a low voltage and will give a warning when it is time to charge.

The battery is comprised of lithium, iron and phosphate. It is very stable, doesn’t combust and is less expensive than batteries with more exotic chemistries being designed for less weight. Its life expectancy is 10 years, depending on use.

The tractor itself requires little maintenance, with only one moving part in the motor.

The rear of the tractor has a three-point hitch and 540 rpm power takeoff (PTO) for implements.

Solectrac obtained a grant to build three prototypes of the e70N. Pandemic supply chain issues held up the build for several months, but once the parts were in, they were able to build them from the ground up and deliver them to the vineyards and farm where operators are providing performance feedback for the production model. Orders are being accepted for all tractor models.

e70N electric tractor
Solectrac
Exhibit space: Demo space #2
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PHOTO: The 100% battery-powered electric tractor with four-wheel drive and power steering offers all the power of a similar-sized diesel tractor but eliminates the exhaust and associated emissions and noise while providing instant torque.Courtesy photo.

Walt Cooley
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