Solectrac electric tractors convert 1950s era Fords

Solectrac eUtility tractor
The all-electric 30kW eUtility tractor is based on a 1950s Ford built in India. Solectrac buys the bare tractor without an engine, so it can create a brand new electric tractor with no used components

Californian company Solectrac has hit on the idea of converting new 1950s-era Ford tractors built in India into all-electric workhorses.

Solectrac is owned by inventor Steve Heckeroth, who has been doing electric conversions on cars, trucks, racing cars and tractors for 25 years.

The eUtility tractor offers 30kW (40hp) and the company says its electric makeover delivers simplicity, energy efficiency and longevity.

“An electric motor has only one moving part, unlike small diesel engines, which have over 300 moving parts,” Steve Heckeroth said.

The tractor does not use hydraulics. Instead, Heckeroth uses electric linear actuators because they are 20 times more efficient than hydraulics and require no toxic fluids. The actuators provide 450kg of dynamic load and 1360kg static loads.

The eUtility is two-wheel drive only, but Solectrac engineers are working on compact four-wheel drive electric tractors, which should be available later this year. The eUtility carries a price tag of $57,000 (US$40,000).

The tractor accepts all category 1, 540rpm PTO implements on its rear three-point hitch, except those requiring hydraulics. An optional hydraulic pump can be installed for legacy implements that require hydraulics.

Heckeroth opted for the tractors out of India because he could buy only the parts he needed and then add the motor, controller, batteries and other components. Also, India is one of the few places that still makes geared transmissions and Heckeroth says they work the best for electric tractors. Gear reduction is necessary to keep the electric motor in the most efficient range of about 2,000rpm and the transmission has four gears with a high and low range, which covers everything from creep to 40kph.

On the eUtility, a single 30-kWh onboard battery pack provides five to eight hours of run time, depending on loads. A Level 2 quick charge gives an 80 percent re-charge for one pack in three hours. The tractor can also carry two battery packs which can receive a full charge overnight.

An integrated battery management system protects the batteries during charging and discharging. Batteries are expected to last about 10 years, depending on the number of operating cycles and depth of discharge.

Exchangeable battery packs are available to keep the tractor running through the full work day. These smaller 20-kWh packs can be mounted on the rear hitch to balance the weight of the optional front loader or carried in the optional front loader to balance the weight of heavy implements mounted on the rear hitch.

The optional front-end loader, which uses linear actuators in place of hydraulics, can lift 450kg.

The eUtility can be ordered with either 300mm or 450mm of ground clearance, said Heckeroth. The 300mm option creates a lower centre of gravity for work on steep slopes. The standard 450mm clearance is stable only on gentle slopes and is intended for high clearance work such as row crops.

Solectrac intends to make its tractors internationally available in 2020.

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