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John Deere develop an electric, cable powered tractor

John Deere’s research project GridCON has developed a 400hp electric cable powered tractor. Development of the tractor is part of John Deere’s continued aspirations in the electrification of agricultural machinery, designed to offer new opportunities for farmers wanting to supply and use their own energy.

The first fully electric tractor by John Deere was developed in 2016 and called the SESAM – Sustainable Energy Supply for Agricultural Machinery. The new GridCON version looks very different to the SESAM as it has no cab and no rows of batteries underneath the bonnet. It is the first vehicle to be fully electric, permanently cable powered and capable of fully autonomous operation in the field.
The designed is based on a John Deere 6210R tractor. It uses a cable connection from the field border to the machine, which transfers power continuously at over 300kW. A 100kW electric motor powers the IVT transmission, and there is an additional outlet for implements powered by a 200kW electric motor. A drum fixed to the tractor carries up to 1000m of cable, although the length can be extended if required. In the field, the cable is fed out and reeled in while guided by a robot arm to keep the operation friction free and at low load. An intelligent guidance system is also used to prevent the tractor running into or over the cable. When working the tractor follows preset rows fully autonomously at operating speeds of around 12 mph (20kph. You can also guide the vehicle manually using a remote control. This is particularly useful when manoeuvring the tractor to begin work on field borders. It uses a 700V DC bus for electric power distribution which gives the necessary power supply of 2.5kV AC for power distribution on-board and to power any implements. The machine employs a cooling infrastructure for off-board electrical use, while total efficiency of the drivetrain is in the region of 85 per cent. Total empty weight which includes the cable drum and robot arm is around 8.5 tonnes which makes it around the same weight as a conventional John Deere 6195R tractor but with twice as much power. The aim is to eventually reduce the weight further by at least one tonne. Besides this favourable power to weight ratio, the concept offers the twin benefits of noiseless and emission-free operation. Compared to battery-powered tractors, the GridCON tractor also delivers around 50 per cent lower machine and operating costs.