According to John Deere, hybrid drivelines are the most realistic option for future tractors.
Joby Javellana likes to join us during our tour through the tractor factory. He is visibly proud and enthusiastic, strolling along the production line of the 8R and 9R-series tractors in the plant in Waterloo, Iowa. We are at John Deere Tractor Works, the companies biggest tractor factory. Joby, engineer responsible for the development plan for the bigger tractor series, tells in detail about the machines. Including the new top model in the 8R-series: the more than 400 hp strong 8400 R. He says there is a market for tractors with this much horsepower on relatively small wheels. The 8400 R apparently is a sales success. Remarkable fact: especially in Europe the new 8400 R has been well received.
John Deere long term plans
Apart from developing tractors, Joby is also interested in what is happening in other countries. Although he works from the John Deere factory in America, he spends half of his time travelling around the globe to see what is happening in agriculture. He uses this information to make development plans, asking what is going on and what farmers need.
Joby sniffs out the demand, and what is most likely going to happen in the future. He is responsible in a team drawing up development plans for the major tractor series for the next 20 years. The plans for the first 5 years are already pretty fixed.
What developments can we expect in the short term?
“Look around you in the factory. What do you notice? It has been about 2 years since we introduced the 9RX series – those articulated tractors on 4 tracks. At this very moment, about half of all 9-series tractors are already being built as a 9RX. That is a remarkable fact, and at the same time is proves that the concept is a success. The 9RX is narrower than an articulated 9R with double wheels mounted. That is important for public roads. In addition, there is less soil compaction and the 9RX has more grip for pulling power. So, tracks are becoming more common, and are really going to play a bigger role for us.”
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Roberto “Joby” Javellana is working for John Deere at the tractor factory in Waterloo, Iowa. He is in a team responsible for the development plan for the bigger tractor series (7R, 8R and 9R). His team draws up the development plan for the next 20 years. Half of his time is spent travelling around the world to identify customers needs. - Photo: John Deere
John Deere is working on a 100% electric tractor, the Sesame. And recently we saw a video of an electric tractor on a long extension cord. John Deere also participates in a research project into small, autonomous robots. Which way will it go?
“We are working on many concepts, like every manufacturer. Nobody can be 100% sure which way the market is going in the future, so we are exploring many ideas. And not afraid to let something fail, provided we learn from it. John Deere has already successfully introduced many electrical components, especially in the construction sector. So the company has experience.”
Which idea would be most realistic?
“A hybrid driveline. John Deere is already using a hybrid driveline in the popular 944K wheel loader. In this machine a diesel engine drives a hydraulic pump, but also 2 electric generators. We will probably introduce this technique in agricultural machines as well in the future.”
Standard and articulated tractors will get more horsepower in the future
Will tractors still get bigger?
“Tractors certainly increase in engine power. The demand has been proven with the introduction of the 8400 R and 9620 R articulated tractors. This trend will continue. Standard and articulated tractors will get more horsepower in the future. First of all implements become larger and wider. So more power is needed. Customers want to cultivate more hectares with the same number of people, and preferably want to finish all fieldwork in a shorter period. Second reason is that working speed increases considerably. That requires a lot of horsepower too. Large sowing combinations demand a lot of hydraulic power as well, and thus engine power.”
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Tractors increase in engine power. According to John Deere, the demand has been proven with the introduction of the 8400 R and 9620 R articulated tractors. - Photo: Randy Williams
What about countries where farms typically have smaller fields?
“Every country faces roughly the same challenges. No matter how big farms and fields are. Everyone knows that machines are large and heavy, but farmers still want to do more work with fewer people. Also on field of a smaller scale. All over the world we see agricultural companies increasing in size. Farms are getting bigger; by cultivating more hectares, they can spread costs and have lower costs per hectare.”
Implements are becoming more important and smarter
To what extent does precision farming technologies play a role in machine development?
“It is essential to first build implements that deliver perfect work at those high working speeds. We have an ExactEmerge sowing machine that sows with precision at 16 km/h. Our cultivators are already working with that speed. Implements are becoming more important and smarter anyway. With new techniques, such as Tractor Implement Management, the implements become smarter. Hydraulic and electrical functions will be operated autonomously, and that provides even more precision. That development is going really fast now. This also applies to tractors, that remain the power source.”
Can you give a concrete example of your work?
“A good example is that we have recently been expanding fuel tanks. When the right moment for harvesting or sowing arrives, customers want to keep working. They do not want to stop at night to refuel. Diesel for 10 hours of heavy pulling work is not enough. Look at the shape of our plastic diesel tank in the articulated tractors; we literally use every corner and hole in the chassis to store fuel. Optionally, we are now even building the chassis of a special new material. That takes up less space, so we have more room for diesel.”
The video underneath shows how John Deere’s biggest tractors are being built in the Waterloo plant