Undoubtedly agriculture has a pivotal role in the socio-economic landscape of a nation. Farming industries serves as the backbone of developing third world countries and to increase the pace of the growth process, countries will have to leverage their resources to yield maximum benefits.
The recent electrification trend in the automobile industry has impacted the agro-industries as well. A good example is the Electric tractors introduced in the Indian market recently. In this post we are going to check out the tractor electrification challenges in India.
Before going to the details, I would like to introduce two electric tractor companies in India.
#1 Sonalika Tiger Electric
Sonalika is the leader in tractor manufacturers in India and now they have introduced India’s first electric tractor named Tiger electric. Sonalika claims that their tractor would be a huge money saver for the farmer while being environmentally friendly as other EVs.
Let’s look at some of the specifications,
- The pricing is competitive with an ex-showroom price of 5.99 lacks.
- The Tiger is powered by the energy-efficient Etrac motor which offers 100% torque availability.
- It has an IP67 compliant 25.5 battery which takes 8-10 hours to fully charge from a home charging point.
- The Tiger has a top speed of, 24.93 Kmph and a Battery backup of 8 hours.
A Hyderabad based startup also has come up with a futuristic electric tractor.
#2 Cellestial E-Mobility
It is a Hyderabad-based startup that was founded in May 2019, aimed at the development and manufacturing of eco-friendly solutions. They released an environmentally friendly electric tractor in March 2020 that can be used in agricultural fields, horticulture farms, greenhouses, transporting products inside factories etc. It has a lower running cost than diesel tractors and needs less maintenance.
Let’s look at some features of their E-Tractor
- The 6 horsepower electric tractor from Cellestial is equal to a 21 horsepower diesel tractor.
- The Cellestial e-tractor has a maximum power of 18 HP and a peak torque of 53 NM
- It can travel up to 75 kilometres on a single charge and has a top speed of 20KMPH
Now the question is whether our fields are ready for electrification?
Tractor Electrification Challenges in India
Though we are mentally ready for this electrification happening in almost all automobile-related industries, we still lack certain physical infrastructures such as charging stations and service centres but within a short period, these will be of no relevance since both public and private sectors have started to invest hefty amounts for resolving these issues.
Other major challenges are,
The power train requirements for a tractor varies very differently from that of a car and the operating conditions also differ. The current architecture of batteries and control systems has been focused on the needs of passenger vehicles, which are not supposed to pull heavy loads at low speeds for extended periods like tractors do. Thus we have to go back to the drawing boards and start designing powertrains and controls for tractors rather than adapting existing technology
Few of the engineering and technical concerns are,
- We will have to combine two or more 10kWH batteries to produce enough power.
- The batteries in an EV works usually in high voltages like 500V and the idea of a 500V battery continuously in a damp environment is not that good and we will have to come up with some solutions for that.
The next biggest challenge is, all these technical barriers and other reasons make electric tractor expensive.
High initial cost
Like any other electric vehicle, the electric tractor is also an expensive matter. The powertrain and the battery systems have to be designed in alignment with the dynamics of the tractor and we know that the vehicle dynamics of the tractor is very much different from that of a car. Developing new powertrain and related technologies is an expensive and tedious process and certainly, this will reflect in the price of the tractor.
There are few challenges concerned with the functionality and financial implications such as,
- Tractors in India has multiple roles and responsibilities other than ploughing like commuting, power generation etc and yet we don’t know how well Electric tractors will perform in each area.
- Agro-industry in India heavily depends on the financing industry for their equipment.
- Financing companies are still a bit hesitant towards electric vehicles as we have discussed in detail in our last post and the same applies here.
- To deliver maximum output and efficiency electric tractors might have to rely upon specially designs tyres and otter such parts.
Though there are few real challenges in the electrification of tractor and other farm equipment, most of these problems will be addressed over time as the EV technology grows and the market gets stabilized. The issues like financing will be over when the EV market gets standardised and EVs gain momentum along with wider acceptance among the public.
Electrification in the agro-industries will be a game-changer as it will bring down the operational costs in the long run and helps to obtain a higher yield from our fields making our nation prosperous while being sustainable at the same time.