Growing green: Electric-powered tractor turning heads at Farm Progress Show
A California inventor is one of hundreds of exhibitors at the 2019 Canada’s Farm Progress Show, bringing with him a tractor that runs on an electric motor.
Steven Heckeroth, the founder and CEO of “Solectrac”, has over 25 years of experience in building both zero energy homes and electric vehicles, spending much of his life finding ways to reduce fossil fuel use. He says tractors are a good fit for an electric overhaul.
“I thought food is pretty important, so we ought to have a tractor that can work after fossil fuels,” Heckeroth said at the second day of Farm Progress. “The electric tractor is a perfect solution for growing food without pollution and without greenhouse gas emissions.”
An organizer of Canada’s Farm Progress Show says incoming innovations like Solectrac are an essential piece of the show.
“He’s got a great tractor that’s very quiet, no pollution, so I think it’s going to be what a lot of the smaller farms are going to be looking at within their operation,” said Shirley Janeczko, the show manager of Farm Progress.
Heckeroth says tractors are even immune to the main issue he’s faced in building electric vehicles: heavy batteries.
“The battery weight was always the biggest problem but a tractor needs weight for traction,” Heckeroth told CTV News.
But that doesn’t mean developing the tractor has been easy. Heckeroth says there are a few bugs he wants to fix before the tractor sees a full launch.
“There’s a lot of electronic components that are sensitive to moisture, so I’m running into that problem for the first time now, which is totally solvable,” Heckeroth said. “You can enclose things so moisture won’t bother them, but this is more of a prototype and we’re just getting ready to go into production."
It’s catching the attention of plenty of passing farmers at the show, with many asking about the tractor’s specs like how long the battery lasts, how much time it takes to charge, and how much it costs.
Heckeroth says right now the Solectrac can last eighth hours on a full charge or around four with a rototiller attached, it takes about three hours to charge up and runs around $40,000, a cost Heckeroth hopes to see lowered as the technology develops.
“With the development of lithium, it’s still pretty expensive, but the cost is coming down. I think eventually this tractor will sell for the same price as diesel.”
Right now, Solectrac’s focus is on smaller farming operations like vineyards, but Heckeroth anticipates electric tractors will see a major increase in use in the next five years as a result of efforts to reduce emissions in the industry – and hopes to be one company leading the charge into a potential new age of ag.