Autonomous Tractor Corp.’s eDrive conversion is designed to breathe new life into old tractors that have little dollar value because of worn out drive trains.
The eDrive conversion uses small diesel engines to spin generators that power electric drive motors installed down at the tractor wheels.
One electric drive motor is installed in each drive hub of the re-manufactured tractor, similar to the electric drive motors found on diesel locomotives.
It means that a typical four-wheel drive tractor would be propelled by four independently controlled electric motors.
The old tractor was originally manufactured with a single big diesel engine up front that turned an inefficient mechanical transmission, differential and drive axles.
The eDrive conversion has a smaller 200 horsepower diesel up front plus an identical 200 h.p. diesel at the back, each driving its own generator. The twin generators power the drive motors in the four hubs.
Each electric motor has only two gears and no transmission. Each one normally runs at 100 h.p., but ATC said they can produce “greater than 300 h.p. instantaneous power in each motor … and provide for speeds up to 20 m.p.h. The liquid-cooled, liquid-lubricated and liquid-controlled design is rated for 25,000 hours of service life and needs no maintenance.”
The system provides 30 percent better fuel efficiency and what the company says is “exquisite control” of the drive wheels, which can be achieved only with an electric drive system.
Anyone who has experience operating electrically powered machinery will attest to the high degree of control, compared to hydraulic or mechanical powered machinery.
Repairs can be done by the owner. For example, an electric drive motor can be replaced in the field in one hour.
Cost of the conversion is about $500 per h.p. Conversion of a typical used 400 h.p. four-wheel drive tractor will cost $200,000, for which a producer receives two new diesel engines, two generators, four drive motors and all control systems and installation.
Farmers can also do only the eDrive kit, without adding AutoDrive.