Mechan Groep, the Dutch importer of Massey Ferguson (MF), is receiving many requests for electrically powered MF tractors from, amongst others, agricultural contractors and municipalities. This has prompted Ronald van Hattem, director of Massey Ferguson Netherlands, to seriously investigate the electric concept based on an Massey Ferguson 5S tractor.
Van Hattem seems to be successful in getting this electric concept built in the MF factory. He explains why he believes in a factory solution and not in the local conversion of diesel versions to electric.
For how long have you been working on this electric MF?
“It’s no secret that from municipalities and governments the demand for CO2-neutral tractors is high. That’s the case with almost all brands. More than a year ago I started to seriously consider this demand – which mainly came from a few specialised MF dealers. All the more so because we knew that factory solutions would take longer than three to four years to develop. At the time, everything was still open: electric, hydrogen, e-fuel, adapting existing tractors and so on. Now, over a year on, we have reached the point where the electric concept seems ready and will be built by MF.”
Why not convert tractors yourself in the Netherlands?
“I’m not in favor of that. As Mechan Groep we have been dicussing this with companies who specialise in converting machinery to electic drivetrains. From all the talks we‘ve had it appears that no single party can offer a long-term guarantee and at the same time offer homologation (user approval for European law, ed.) whereby the MF name may remain on the hood. After all, if you locally convert a tractor to electric, you are making so many changes that the tractor manufacturer no longer wants to be responsible for it, also in terms of warranty and aftercare. What’s more, we at the Mechan Group are a supplier, not a manufacturer. All in all, this is not a sustainable development. Not for us, not for the customer and not for MF either. Certainly not if such conversion companies cease to exist, go bankrupt or have a rapid change of personnel. That had to be different.”
What had to be different?
“I started looking for a sustainable solution, where the tractor becomes electric in the factory. That is only possible if larger, solid parties are allowed to get involved in the concept. I found such a party at VDL in the Netherlands. VDL Special Vehicles (SV) has years of experience in building city buses and trucks with electric and/or hydrogen drives. That technology can be applied perfectly well in other vehicles. This makes it possible for MF to develop an electric variant of the 5S in a relatively short period of time, based on existing and proven technology.
The result is an electric MF, which will enter the market as a fully-fledged, approved and homologated MF tractor.
After long discussions with the MF management in France and VDL SV, the first drawings are now ready. The result is an electric MF that will be marketed as a approved and homologated MF tractor and will therefore also have the appropriate warranty and aftercare.
MF still had to be convinced that there is sufficient demand in the European market. But by now they are aware that this kind of project is essential for a global brand like MF, where sustainability is important.
I then looked at the numbers with many other MF importers in Europe. We‘re talking about hundreds of machines. And just to be clear: when this development process is underway, I will withdraw from it. We at the Mechan Group are only the initiators of this project. Nevertheless, I am super proud of this result.”
I expect the first series to be ready in the fourth quarter of 2023
When will the first electric MF tractor arrive?
“Nothing is certain yet. But if MF and VDL SH reach an agreement, I expect the first series to be ready in the fourth quarter of 2023. The basis will be similar to a 100 hp MF 5S. The tractor will need to be able to run for 8 hours on 1 battery charge at average use. With a quick charger it will be back to 80% charge in half an hour. In any case, the tractors must be able to be charged by the existing charging station systems.”
What will the electric MF tractor cost?
“That depends on a number of factors and is not yet known exactly. In particular, this depends on how many electric tractors other countries will order. What is certain is that this electric tractor will become competitive with the diesel version, if you look at the total cost per running hour on an annual basis.”
Which other countries showed interest?
“Besides the Netherlands, the demand for electric MFs is especially high in Denmark, England, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria. But I think once this becomes known, the market may well move much faster than we we currently anticipate.”