Electric tractors are long-lived and durable vehicles that are free from some of the more difficult challenges of electric car design. For example, tractors generally benefit from weight - non-electric tractors often are fitted with large heavy weights or have their tires filled with liquid for greater traction. Thus electric tractors can use cheap, long-lived flooded lead-acid batteries rather than more expensive batteries boasting a higher energy density. In addition, tractors are predictably used in specific areas at a specific times, so charging stations (often solar) and other support infrastructure can be readily provided by the owner without community or government assistance.
Electric tractors fall into two categories; garden tractors such as the GE Elec-trak, and farming tractors such as the electric version of the Tuff-Bilt.
Garden Tractors[edit | edit source]
Principally suited for lawn mowing, the archetypical GE Elec-Trac (also produced by Wheel Horse and John Deere) has a low ground clearance and turf tires. Although many attachments exist (including chain saws, plows, tillers, buckets, blades, and snowblowers) most owners primarily use these tractors with a belly mower or front mounted mower.
Other garden tractors include the Electric Ox, the METI (which is an improved, attachment-compatible modern clone of the Elec-trak), the Whispermow, and the Cub Cadet E95.
John "Plasma Boy" Wayland built the 'Heavy Metal Garden Tractor' on an MTD frame. It is noted for its high top speed and powerful stereo, but does not compete well with other electric garden tractors for torque or traction.
The Doran Electric (formerly Gorilla) e-ATV is advertised on-line as an electric garden tractor, but Doran does not ship any mowing, gardening or farming attachments other than a snow plow. The optional pin hitch accepts garden tractor attachments with 1/2" and 5/8" pins.
Farm Tractors[edit | edit source]
Most electric farm tractors are either one-off "jonesmobiles" or based on the Allis-Chalmers "G" chassis. Hugenot Farms of New Paltz pioneered the conversion of the original "G" (made from 1948 to 1955) under a USDA SARE grant; several hundred have been converted as of 2009. The metal fabricators that assisted Huguenot with the conversion sell a standard "G" conversion kit, and Huguenot distributes plans over the internet free of charge.
The Tuff-Bilt is a modern clone of the "G" which uses the highly desirable modern 3-point hitch. It is readily converted to electric and the manufactor has plans to offer a factory electric version (two prototypes have already been shipped). Some Tuff-Bilt owner will still prefer conversions in order to eliminate the hydrostatic drive chain, which is retained in the factory version.
The Saukville is also a modernized, 3-point hitch version of the "G". It has not shipped at the time of this writing, but the company has announced that five power train options will be available, presumably including an electric version. Pictures online show a single gasoline version, but the frame is identical to the original "G" so conversion should be possible even if the factory fails to offer a factory electric version.
The Bosco MUT is yet another modern clone of the "G" which is designed to be less expensive, at some cost in flexibility and durability. It is mid-engined and would require a different conversion strategy than the rear-engine Saukville, Tuff-Bilt and Allis "G". The manufacturer has not responded yet to my inquiries about electric versions.
Other farm tractors include the Indian AAT 72F, the Italian Bagioni specialty tractors, and Stephen Heckeroth's solar-powered tractor (a brilliant, seminal machine which has never achieved commercial production).
Electric tractors are said to change the way that farmers use their equipment; since the tractor is entirely turned off when stopped, farmers stop frequently rather than trying to maximize the efficiency of gas consumption by minimizing stops. This results in more intense involvement with crop seeding and tending, which in turn leads to higher yields and more marketable product.