Electric hybrid equipment finding foothold in agriculture

The on-road electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid market is far more mature than the off-road market that includes agricultural applications.

In the on-road market there are plenty of components, from generators and batteries to safety systems that vehicle makers can use, which is one of the reasons there have recently been new offerings on the market.

However, the off-road EV and hybrid-component market is beginning to catch up, including Terzo Power Systems with its electric hydraulic pump and electric hydraulic steering pump that’s being used by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that build specialty equipment for the ag sector.

Micheal Terzo, chief executive officer of Terzo Power Systems said that within five years the component market will enable short-line equipment manufacturers in North America to easily hybridize, electrify or automate their vehicles.

“The stuff that’s coming out on the software and the machine vision side is getting there. Our product is launched now, and in the engine, gen (generator), and the battery side there are some pretty good solutions out there,” Terzo said.

“So I imagine within five years those will be more well-known and more into production.”

A problem with electric and hybrid agricultural equipment is that when the engine is not running, they lose the hydraulics and the steering pump.

“We’re one of the first companies to develop an all-integrated electro-hydraulic pump that is ready for the electrification market,” Terzo said.

Terzo works with Anderson Industrial that makes an engine and generator package for Parker Hannifin that produces GVM motors, as well as high voltage battery manufacturers like Webasto and Vanguard Batteries.

The equipment-component companies team up to offer integrated solutions for OEMs.

For instance, Terzo is working with companies that produce tree shakers in California to develop hybrid systems for their vehicles.

“They constantly start and stop as they go down the orchards, for either almonds or walnuts here. They are shaking for the harvest season. That start-stop is a perfect duty cycle for a hybrid,” Terzo said.

He said equipment that go through many stop-and-start duty cycles are more conducive for hybridization compared to equipment that have long duty cycles.

“A constant duty cycle of big row tractors and combines that are going all day long at a set duty cycle are tough to hybridize or electrify,” Terzo said.

He said large equipment manufacturers have large engineering teams that will develop a solution for each of their pieces of equipment, but his approach is to develop components that can be integrated in a wide range of equipment.

The smaller equipment manufacturers often don’t have the engineering resources to develop new vehicle architectures for each component their products need.

Electrically driven hydraulic applications in agriculture are just starting to be developed. Terzo Power Systems with its electric hydraulic pump and electric hydraulic steering pump are is one company opening up the field. | Terzo Power Systems photo

“There are probably 500 or more specialized agricultural manufacturers just here in California, and they all make anywhere from 50 to 500 machines a year,” Terzo said.

“Well if you do the math that’s tens of thousands of vehicles that are made right here in California that we can get on board quickly to actually have a pretty big impact on some of this stuff.”

The smaller OEMs are quicker to adapt to the new technology but they are each relatively low volume, so he said it’s also important to work with the large equipment manufacturers.

“You’re not going to have a big OEM integrate something that’s not well tested and proven to be durable. So now the big push is to go through the durability aspect to get it on board with the big agricultural vehicle guys,” Terzo said.

He said quite a few companies in California have been developing components for hybridization, electrification and automation of off-road vehicles for a decade, and many are beginning to move into production.

As the OEMs begin to field electric and hybrid equipment, it becomes a much smaller step towards partial or even full automation.

“One of the biggest things we’re focused on is automation in ag. We work closely with a couple of other companies that developed on the software or the vision side, integrating that in with our platform to try to give these vehicle manufacturers a more productive or more automated solution,” Terzo said.

“We’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on the development of our product that is just one piece of that pie. So that’s what we’re trying to do, is find the missing pieces, and that electric hydraulic system was one of those missing pieces.”

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