A pioneer of electric tractor development is half-way to a $1 million public fund-raising target.
Solectrac, based in California, USA, is using the StartEngine crowd funding platform to raise cash for the business as it seeks to build more of its 40hp-equivalent battery-powered eUtility tractors and complete development of further models.
A little more than half a dozen of eUtility models have been supplied so far, based on two-wheel drive Farmtrac diesel tractor hardware from Indian manufacturer Escorts.
Priced from $45,000 and available with optional hydraulic loader and front hitch, the eUtility is said to be capable of performing regular field and yard tasks on small farms, horticultural enterprises, vineyards and so on.
“I’ve been working on electric tractors for 26 years,” says Steve Heckeroth, founder and CEO. “But the introduction of lithium batteries has made it possible to have longer run times, so an electric tractor can be used for any application a diesel tractor can be used for except that it’s clean and quiet.
“The electric motor we use is 94% efficient and the torque is available instantly, whereas with a diesel engine it takes time to come up to maximum torque and the engine is only about 35% efficient because the rest is wasted as heat.”
He says run-time for each exchangeable 28kWh lithium battery pack carried on the tractor’s rear or optional front three-point linkage is four to eight hours depending on load, with three hours required for an 80% charge.
Apart from replacing the diesel engine with a brushless AC induction electric motor that drives through the donor tractor’s transmission, the other main change is to replace the hydraulic rear hitch lift with electric linear actuators.
The Solectrac e70N in development is a larger 70hp-equivalent model with four-wheel drive, while the 30hp-equivalent eFarmer is a light-weight electrically-propelled tool-carrier with a bespoke space-frame chassis providing front, mid- and rear implement mounting positions.
Solectrac’s relationship with Escorts also extends to selling the manufacturer’s electrically-driven Farmtrac CET four-wheel drive compact tractor locally, priced from $25,800 plus $4000 for a loader option.
To date, the fund-raising campaign has secured more than $513,700 towards the $1.07 million target from 645 investors, many of whom will get to vote on the recipient of a free eUtility tractor if the full target is reached within the next 60 days.
Solectrac has recently been awarded a local ‘alternative technologies for agriculture’ grant approaching $515,000 to complete development of the e70N and place demonstration tractors on a farm and two vineyards in California.