The Solar Electric Tractor (Solectrac) is a full function agricultural tractor that operates with up to 5 times the efficiency of a diesel tractor performing the same farming tasks. Solectracs can also be used for portable power, home power, water pumping and mechanical functions as well as for hauling and transportation needs. Because the Solectrac is electric its batteries can be charged directly by clean renewable energy or it can be charged at low cost from the electric utility grid at off-peak rates. Solectracs use patented “quick change” battery packs to extend operational periods.
The Solectrac will initially be marketed in regions of the US where the numbers of small organic farms are increasing and a non-polluting tractor is highly valued. Inquiries from over 50 countries demonstrate the broad appeal of electric tractors using solar charging and pre-sales orders will be taken once the production units are developed. As production volume increases component costs will drop and the Solectracs will become affordable in other emerging markets like India and Africa, especially with financing. Currently there are no other manufacturers of new agricultural electric tractors so Solectracs have a head start on large manufacturers that typically wait until demand is in the tens of thousands before entering the market.
Production of Solectrac “kits” that can be shipped to local franchise owners for assembly with installation of locally sourced batteries will provide a quick path to developing a “local sales and servicing” network made up of existing local farm equipment dealers. The franchisee will also have access to equipment financing as part of the franchise reducing the barrier of the higher electric tractor cost. Solar and off-peak utility electricity provides low cost power resulting in a quick payback compared to rising diesel fuel prices.
Increases in food prices that depend on fossil fuel for agricultural production are another factor supporting Solectracs. Rising diesel prices make it very difficult for subsistence farmers in less developed countries to afford tractors to increase agricultural production. Solectracs with solar charging and financing provides an affordable alternative to fossil-fueled tractors in both the short and long terms. Basing economic prosperity on the combustion of finite resources has led to rising costs as the resources are depleted and a polluted environment as they are burned. Solectrac offers a clean, cost-effective and sustainable alternative.
Solectrac co-founder Stephen Heckeroth has been designing, building and using electric tractors since 1992 and has been working in the renewable energy field since 1970.
The grant from the NSF will allow Solectrac to develop and produce Solar Electric Tractors that will increase sustainable food production wherever the sun shines.