John Deere has developed an electric cable powered tractor developing up to 400hp.

The GridCON research project is part of the company’s efforts towards the electrification of agricultural machinery, offering new opportunities for farms to supply and use their own energy.

John Deere presented the first fully electric tractor, known as the SESAM (Sustainable Energy Supply for Agricultural Machinery), in 2016. The GridCON tractor looks very different to its predecessor, as it has no cab and no rows of batteries underneath the bonnet.

It is the first vehicle to be fully electric, permanently cable powered and capable of fully autonomous operation in the field. Based on a John Deere 6210R tractor, this leccy version utilises a cable connection from the field border to the machine, which transfers power continuously at more than 300kW. A 100kW electric motor powers the IVT transmission, and there is an additional outlet for implements powered by a 200kW electric motor.

A drum fixed to the tractor carries up to 1km of cable, although the length can be extended if required. In the field, the cable is fed out and reeled in while guided by a robot arm to keep the operation friction free and at low load. An intelligent guidance system is also used to prevent the tractor running into or over the cable.

At work, the tractor follows preset rows fully autonomously at operating speeds of up to just over 12mph (20kph). The vehicle can also be guided manually using a remote control, which is particularly useful when manoeuvring the tractor to start work on field borders for example.

A power supply of 2.5kV AC is required, and the GridCON tractor uses a 700V DC bus for electric power distribution both onboard and for implements. It has a cooling infrastructure for off-board electrical use, while total efficiency of the drivetrain is in the region of 85%.

Empty weight of the working prototype GridCON tractor, including a cable drum and robot arm, is about 8.5 tonnes, so it is about the same weight as a conventional John Deere 6195R, but with twice as much power. Researchers aim to reduce weight by at least a tonne.

Besides this favourable power to weight ratio, the concept offers the twin benefits of noiseless and emission-free operation. Compared to battery-powered tractors, the GridCON tractor also delivers around 50% lower machine and operating costs.

It seems that hi-tech add ons to agricultural vehicles have recently been a target for thieves and now John Deere is offering a new PIN code locking system to help deter the theft of its valuable GreenStar in-cab displays and StarFire satellite receivers.

This has been designed to make it impossible to use the components if they are stolen. Their popular ‘plug and play’ design, means that these displays and GPS receivers are more susceptible to theft compared to other systems.

Until now, they could only be locked and protected mechanically, so to increase the level of protection, John Deere has introduced a built-in PIN code lock, similar to that used on smartphones, for both components.

This be entered via the John Deere display. If the user forgets the code, they can continue working for a limited period, up to a maximum of 72 hours. After that, a master unlock code is required

The new PIN code locking system is now available for John Deere 4240 and 4640 Universal Displays and the StarFire 6000 receiver.

Other security features from John Deere include the fact that the company’s agricultural tractors sold in the UK and Ireland, including the 6M, 6R, 7R, 8R and 9R Series models, are fitted as standard with the CESAR Datatag security system, as well as an immobiliser system, with each key unique to individual tractors.