Electric Tractors Will Soon Be Available

With So Many Electric Cars, Why Not Electric Tractors?

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

There are many different models of electric cars—they are even mainstream in most  U.S. cities and other countries—and now farmers may soon have electric tractors to use in specialty crops in California.

Bakur Kvezereli is president and CEO of Ztractor, the first autonomous electric tractor for specialty crops. Kvezereli, who is based in Palo Alto, explained why the tractor is being developed in California.

“First, California is our market. Second, we teamed up with some great engineers, who graduated from Stanford, and my school, which was MIT. We were friends, and we wanted to look into this technology looking to replace the 25 or 30 HP diesel motor as well as the 30-gallon diesel,” he said.

“And we started as an electric tractor company in September 2017. And in two months, we realized that to achieve an electric tractor, you have to find a solution for making it autonomous,” Kvezereli explained.

“We now have three models in our manufacturing pipeline. One 24 horsepower will be available to the farmers this year. The next model will be a bigger tractor, 45 horsepower, which will be available 2020, and a 125 horsepower will be available in 2021.”

“Our basic tractor will have all the usual features found in most other tractors. The premium model line will have more features, especially on the software and hardware area. The zTractors will have no emissions and no hydraulics—just strong torque power.”

A four-hour charge will provide 6 to 10 hours of work in the field. “It requires only level two charging similar to car charging.  “We are exploring a better battery, however currently it is the nickel ion technology,” Kvezereli said

“Horsepower is where we estimate the metrics for a tractor. What we think farmers care about is torque. In electric, to achieve higher torque is much easier than to achieve it with diesel power, and electric technology in general is very reliable for many types of tasks,” said Kvezereli.

The electric tractors keep the same three-point hitch as well as a PTO, both electrically operated.

“We build everything based on the requirements for the PTO and three-point hitch, and I think that’s what makes the Ztractor different from any other robotics companies that will provide a better tractor. It’s a general purpose and can replace a regular traditional tractor,” he said.

The main farming operations will be strawberry  vineyards and vegetable operations. The tasks will include soil preparation and crop management. Harvest tasks are not yet available.

The prices for the tractors, calculated at $1,000 per horsepower, are similar to traditional tractors.

Dairyman Cuts Diesel Emissions 92%

Kings County Dairyman Cuts Diesel Emissions 92% With Electric Mixer

By Laurie Greene, Editor

On his dairy in the Kings County town of Hanford, Philip Verway reduced his diesel consumption a remarkable 92% from 7,000 to 500 gallons in a given three-week period. His innovative secret to cutting diesel emissions is converting a diesel-powered commodity mixing machine to an electric mixer.

Kevin Abernathy, director of environmental services for the Milk Producers Council, said, “Rob VandenheuvelGeneral Manager for Milk Producers Council, Philip and I helped him get a grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, a state-appointed board which aims to minimize diesel exhaust output. We put together a proposal, submitted it, and their governing board actually approved the grant. What began as a concept on paper led to the reality of the processes being implemented on-farm. We had it up and running in about three months. Most importantly, the end results are not only meeting, but exceeding our expectations,” said Abernathy.

The entire operation dramatically reduces total nitrogen oxides (NOX gases), pollutants in the San Joaquin Valley, “Our initial expectation based on the modeling was 22 tons of NOX emissions.” The post-project NOX rates were about two tons—a major reduction.

Abernathy said Verway worked with contractors Duport and Supreme to engineer the electrification of the vertical mixers and built some fail-safe components into the system. Impressed, Abernathy said, “Based on what I have seen, they have done a remarkable job, particularly on the multiple fail-safes. Hats off to Duport and Supreme for coming up with technology that works day-in and day-out, 365 days of the year.”

Abernathy also admired the ingenuity in the California dairy industry, “They continue to come up with some of the most extraordinary ideas. It is an absolute blessing to work with them, and they make my job so much fun with projects like this!”