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Solar electric tractors

Planting, maintenance, and other chores can be done by tractors powered by electricity from the sun
Photo courtesy of Steve Heckeroth

Farm equipment innovator Steve Heckeroth has been tinkering with designs to build electric vehicles for 26-years. Small and mid-sized farmers from all over the world and share his enthusiasm for reducing their use of fossil fuel. Heckeroth’s company, Soletrac, is building utility tractors and row crop tractors for farmers who want zero emission power from renewable energy.

There are no hydraulics on his tractors, yet a three-point hitch in the back and a hitch on the front allows farmers to use any category-one implements.

Heckeroth says the motors are high torque and low speed.

"Their maximum power is at 1800 RPM which is the RPM that diesel motors like to run at. But they have to get up to that speed before they have the power and the torque, so you don’t have that instant torque that you have with an electric motor," says Heckeroth. "And that makes a huge difference in the feel of the motor, even though the horsepower may not be as much."

Heckeroth holds the patent for exchangeable battery packs that make it easy to extend the tractor’s daily work hours. And there are several charging options.

"You can charge them right off the grid with a 220 charger, it’s about a 6 hour charge. We’ve got one that will charge two batteries at 50 amps, or one battery at 100 amps," he says. "If you charge the battery at 100 amps, it’ll take 3 hours to charge the battery pack. You can charge from a solar array and then hook it up to an inverter that charges the batteries."

Heckeroth’s utility tractor is available now, and he is taking orders for the larger row crop tractor which will be available at the end of the year.

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