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John Deere unveils new farming equipment that could change the face of agriculture as we know it: 'This is similar to proven technology'

"Sooner than later, the sheer economics of battery power will make switching a no-brainer."

"Sooner than later, the sheer economics of battery power will make switching a no-brainer."

Photo Credit: John Deere

John Deere is electrifying the farm with its new Electric Variable Transmission on its largest 8 and 9 series tractors, Electrek reports.

On the road, electric vehicles are making a lot of headway and gaining more market share than ever, as the benefits of affordable, reliable, clean energy trickle into the public consciousness.

But on farms, where rugged tractors are needed to do heavy-duty work, EVs with their reputation as lightweights are a harder sell.

To overcome that barrier, John Deere has produced a piece of machinery that's anything but lightweight.

Unlike battery-powered EVs, the EVT is driven by a diesel generator on the vehicle. But instead of powering the drivetrain directly, the generator produces electricity. That power can be delivered to the wheels, yes — but it can also be "off-boarded," and therein lies the beauty of this arrangement.

Off-boarding means using the tractor's power to run equipment trailing behind it, such as giant harvesters, Electrek explained. For almost 100 years, that has meant establishing a mechanical connection between the tractor and the trailer. Those connections have to be physically strong, which means they have to be thick and heavy, difficult to move and to hook up.

Compared to that, running a few wires to the trailer to send it electrical power is nothing.

"This is similar to proven technology John Deere currently uses on construction equipment," said Ryan Jardon, a marketing manager for John Deere.

To demonstrate the principle, John Deere teamed up with Spudnik, which produces potato and root crop harvesters. Like many in the industry, its harvesters use air to separate roots and dirt. Running the machine's fans with an ordinary diesel tractor has always been problematic, because the engine is constantly changing speeds and the airflow needs to stay the same. Electrical power is the perfect solution.

"Deere is doing a smart thing here by … offering several of the benefits of full electric operation without taking away all the rattling vroom-vroom diesel noises that their current customers love," said Electrek in its analysis. "Sooner than later, the sheer economics of battery power will make switching a no-brainer. Until then, clever tech like the EVT is laying the foundations ... And — hey, whatever works."

If true, we might not be far from an era of electric battery-powered farm equipment. If so, that would mean less heat-trapping air pollution from burning diesel, which would be great for the whole world — not to mention the potential savings for farmers.

John Deere and Spudnik have already successfully tested the configuration in Washburn, Maine. They haven't yet released a date for the equipment's wider launch, Electrek reported.

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