John Deere develops fully electric, autonomous tractor

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John Deere has announced that it has developed a high-performance, autonomous, fully electric tractor. The electric cable-powered agricultural machine, which provides up to 400hp (300kW) of power in total, is known as GridCON.

Back in 2016, the OEM presented its first fully electric tractor, known as the SESAM (Sustainable Energy Supply for Agricultural Machinery), however this successor looks very different.

Featuring no cab, and no rows of batteries underneath the bonnet, the GridCON is a fully electric, permanently cable-powered vehicle with full autonomous capabilities.

Based on a John Deere 6210R tractor, the machine utilizes a cable connection from the field border to the machine, which transfers power continuously at over 300kW. A 100kW electric motor powers the continuously variable transmission, and there is an additional outlet for implements powered by a 200kW electric motor.

Compared to battery-powered equivalents, the prototype delivers around 50% lower machine and operating costs. A drum fixed to the tractor carries up to 1,000m of cable, which 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.

Capable of autonomous operating speed of 12mph (20km/h), the vehicle can also be guided manually using a remote control.

Total weight of the working prototype is 8.5 metric tons – a similar weight to the conventional tractor it is based on, but with twice as much power. The research engineers intend to reduce the weight further, with the expectation that at least one metric ton of weight can be shaved off.

Interested in finding out more about the latest breakthroughs in autonomous industrial vehicles and in electric industrial vehicles? Check out the Autonomous Industrial Vehicle Technology Conferenceand the  Electric & Hybrid Industrial Vehicle Technology Conference both of which take place during iVT Expo, on February 13-14, 2019, in Cologne, Germany. 

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James joined the Industrial Vehicle Technology International team in 2017. Previously he was Assistant Editor on an engineering title for several years and has worked for various other trade magazines before that. James is happily married and has a young daughter and son who keep him busy.

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