An electric future

The use of the electric energy to drive devices assembled on agricultural machines provides some interesting opportunities for manufacturers. The most frequent applications concern systems whose reactivity must be very fast, in the order of some hundredths of second. Such reactivity can be granted only by an electric circuit that, precisely, is characterized by an almost instantaneous on/off response, thus permitting the development of applications that hydraulic or pneumatic systems do not allow. A second advantage is represented by the extreme adaptability to the machine architecture, limiting the design constraints to the overall dimensions of the electric motor, anyway very reduced for low powers. The electric energy source, anyway, remains in this case the endothermic motor of the tractor.

When the electric energy derives from batteries installed on board, we pursue higher and various advantages, like for instance the elimination of exhaust gases and the strong reduction of sound emissions. This explains the broad diffusion of this technologic approach in equipment carried by the operator, like those for pruning and the amateur green management and in pickers for IVth  range products.

It is instead original its use on machines needing high power. Last spring a Bavarian manufacturer released on the market a mixer wagon fully powered by electric energy supplied by batteries mounted on the machine. The European market immediately awarded this innovation with the purchase of over 10 units, showing the strong attention paid to this type of solution. Currently, this kind of application is reserved to machines intended for operating in confined environments, such as greenhouses and stables, where the absence of gaseous emissions provides a direct benefit to operators and better healthiness for cultures and bred animals.

The autonomy of batteries, once considered a problem, has notably improved and in the mentioned cases it does not represent a limit because these machines operate inside confined environments where the recharge phases can be easily programmed according to the activities.

Looking at the future, we can easily foresee that robotics in agriculture can be notably boosted by the application of electric drive devices as they grant simple management and lower maintenance needs. This especially in the development of innovative robotics, which does not pursue the target of making the tractor autonomous but designs new machines specialized in the execution of specific operations, in which the execution precision can lead to a reduction of the dispensed product, like in the case of treatments of fertilizations, or to its replacement with interventions of other typology, as the weedkilling. Small or medium size machines, fully autonomous, able to manage recharge cycles in the least suitable hours for the operation execution.

A last remark that support this: in a farm. it is easier and more efficient to generate electric energy than fuels. Let us ponder.

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