Meet the electric John Deere

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Meet the electric John Deere

 Green and yellow are arguably the second-most American set of colors, behind red, white and blue, of course. This rings true particularly for those who operate John Deere machinery on a daily basis, as the growth of our nation is supremely dependent on the country’s agriculture industry, including the good folks who support it.

Technology in recent years has been the catalyst for the boom and bust of many industries. In the past decade or so, advancements in farming technology have primarily been focused on automation and precision, but with the automobile industry moving toward electric vehicles, the ag-industry is following suit.

John Deere showcased the first fully battery-powered tractor  (photo on left) in 2017 at SIMA, an international agribusiness tradeshow in Paris. This technological innovation was given a “special mention,” as it truly is the first of its kind. It is nicknamed SESAM, for Sustainable Energy Supply for Agricultural Machinery.

This emissions-free tractor runs at a lower noise level than traditional tractors and is operated using two independent electric motors. The electrification simplifies the moving parts, and thus greatly reduces the need for maintenance.

These two motors power an adapted DirectDrive transmission, producing 130 kilowatts of continuous power with a peak output of 400 horsepower, according to Farm-Equipment.com. The website also affirms that the tractor takes three hours to fully charge and can run up to four hours in the field, with speeds ranging from 2 to 30 mph. As a comparison, the Tesla Model 3 car may have a capacity of up to 75-kilowatt hours (kWh) of battery storage, providing a range of about 310 miles. The SESAM has a capacity of 130 kWh with a range of about 34 miles, which means that this tractor uses a lot more electricity in a shorter period of time.

In order for the SESAM to take off, the battery capacity will need to expand to support the sun-up to sun-down longevity of farm work. In fact, the president and CEO of Autonomous Tractor Corporation, Kraig Schulz, said that a 200-horsepower electric tractor would hypothetically need about 1,500 kWh of batteries to complete a full day’s work. As energy storage technology continues to advance, it’s only a matter of time before there is an all-electric tractor that can meet this need.

Although SESAM’s battery technology may not yet be practical for a full day of farming, the all-electric tractor is a very exciting development for the agriculture industry.

 Kaley Lockwood writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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