John Deere is leading the charge into electric tractors with another innovation in partnership with GridCON. For 2018, the company is not only bringing the power of electric motors to the world of tractors, it is doing so with a new fully autonomous, corded electric model.
The new tractor was unveiled in a video that demonstrates the unique way that it has been programmed to allow farmers to run it as a fully autonomous vehicle to groom their fields while laying out and retracting the 1 kilometer long onboard extension cord along the way.
Pairing autonomous grooming with the extension cord has the potential to lower the capital cost of purchasing the vehicle by removing the batteries. At the same time, the autonomous capability of the vehicle ensures that it will not run over its own power cord and reduces wear and tear on the cord itself.
The concept of not just a plug-in electric tractor, but a fully corded model likely sounds absurd at first mention, but with most farmers tilling the same fields day in and day out, season after season, it starts making a lot more sense. Why not invest the money that would have been spent on batteries on a few extensions of the farm’s power system that would enable the use of a plug-in electric tractor?
Having said all that, the corded tractor will not solve for all possible scenarios, but it is an exciting step forward towards allowing farmers to get rid of the large diesel engines that have for so long powered their motorized workhorses.
Beyond just the ability to till a single farm, these new corded tractors make the prospect of neighborhood or community tractors a real possibility. If a single autonomous tractor has the ability to work 20 hours per day, with just the occasional swapping of the cord to the next hub, why not map out full communities and set them up on roaming cycles across an entire community of farms? The new possibilities that this tech opens up seem to outweigh what initially feel like limitations in the corded form factor.
Beyond just lowering the capital cost, the corded solution does not require any downtime to recharge batteries and can just keep on working all hours of the day. That also means that farmers don’t have to worry about battery wear or planning for the expense of a battery replacement years down the road and can just focus on their work.
The new offering is John Deere’s second electric tractor, having unveiled a lithium-ion powered electric model with GridCON last year.
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