John Deere Reveals Electric Farm Tractor – (w/video)

DEC 6 2016 BY MARK KANE 69

In late February, John Deere intends to present at the French SIMA show in Paris, a very special tractor.

It’s called the SESAM (Sustainable Energy Supply for Agricultural Machinery), and seems to be the first fully electric tractor.

John Deere Electric Tractor SESAM

John Deere Electric Tractor SESAM

Two 150 kW electric motors can be used together, or as a single drive unit, while second motor to incorporate other fucntionality, like a hydraulic pump.

John Deer SESAM spec

  • two 150 kW electric motors (300 kW total)
  • 130 kWh lithium-ion battery
  • up to four hours or 55 km of range
  • three hours recharge

source: John Deer and

Categories: General


Leave a Reply

69 Comments on "John Deere Reveals Electric Farm Tractor – (w/video)"

newest oldest most voted

Yes!!! Finally!!!

“Nothing runs like a Deer” ™

I will be hardly a problem for farmers to put in some solar/wind and have their own rechargeable farm equipment.
Some of the “new farmers” might be inclined to get one.

They could make plug hybrids with turbo diesels that run on biomethane created in digesters. Lots of biomass left after harvest. The electricity can come from wind and solar.

Yeah, that would make sense.

Lots of farmers in The Netherlands already have a wind turbine and/or large arrays of solar panels on the roofs of their uitility buildings, this tractor should be a no-brainer for them!

Only four hours of running time before needing a recharge? I don’t know many farmers who would buy a tractor that would only last half of a day’s work, or less.

There is a reason why passenger cars are one of the first two major markets for EVs (the other being city buses). Most cars are only used for about 10-15% of the hours in a day. Working vehicles, such as farm machinery, are expected to be in service a lot more than that, at least during certain seasons.

As with long-distance freight hauling, practical farm tractors are going to need battery packs with much bigger capacity, and prices are going to need to come down on batteries before this makes economic sense.

Have a swappable battery such that you can charge one battery while the other battery is being used. Problem solved.

But is that really a problem? The tractors often sit around idle because they don’t drive them all the time. Only for plowing, seeding fertilizing, spreading pesticides, harvesting, etc. There are many days where they don’t drive around the fields with the tractors.

I worked on my grandpa’s farm during summers, when I was a teenager. So I do know something about this.

Sure, most of the time any given piece of farm equipment sits idle. But when it’s needed, it’s likely needed for as many hours a day as the farmer can get someone to use it. When it’s time to plant, you won’t want to do that for just four hours a day. You’ll want to spend long hours doing that so all the seed gets planted within a few days. Ditto for plowing, harrowing, spraying, and harvesting.

And Grandpa was only running a family farm. One of these enormous 4WD tractors, as shown in the photo above, is much more likely to be used on a large corporate farm, where their need to put in as many hours a day with a tractor during certain seasons is even greater, because they have a lot more acres under cultivation.

speculawyer said:

“Have a swappable battery such that you can charge one battery while the other battery is being used. Problem solved.”

That just creates another logistical problem. You’re probably gonna have the extra battery pack at a central location, so it can be hooked up to electric power for charging. And when it’s charged, how do you get it to the tractor? Drive the tractor in to swap out the battery, then drive it back out to the fields? No farmer will want to waste time, money, and wear-and-tear on the tractor doing that, especially when it would likely have to be done three times a day. (When things are busy, farmers don’t quit work when they’ve put in a mere eight hours in a day.) Put the spare battery pack on a truck? Well then, the truck needs to be equipped with special heavy-duty hydraulics to lift and swap out the battery packs. So that’s another expensive piece of specialized equipment the farmer would have to buy, just to support using EV tractors.

Not gonna happen.

Huh? Just have two sets of batteries with the tractor at all times. One set is being used and the other is back at the barn being charged. You would have to get back to the barn to do the swap. And these farms will need a good strong electricity hookup.

The big problem is that really raises the by having two battery sets.

not to mention the issue of the weight of the battery. a 130kWh battery probably weighs over 1 ton. swapping such a huge battery would take specialized equipment.

nothing about this tractor seems practical.

Hi pushme, You made some good points. The majority of farmers will wait for a tractor that can work 12 to 14 hours without recharge, when there is work to be done it mostly has to be done ASAP (before weather changes). Sad but true. Nonetheless its good to see that John Deere offers at least something. A first step does not necessarily complete the journey. If this tractor can satisfy the needs of 1-3% of all tractor customers John Deere recently has then this will replace quite a lot of diesel consumption. I can see it as a second tractor for those farmers who can afford it. Many farmers in Germany nowadays have tons of solar panels on their buildings. Farms are likely to have a high amperage grid connection. Given that a tractor is quite a big investment it should come with a free dc quick charge solution. 4 hours of work 1h recharge and 3 additional hours of work could at least raise the percentage of potential customers. That said I’m really happy to see that (as far as I know) first step into a bev tractor world. Btw. where I live now there is more forest… Read more »

Replacement batteries could be made a simple slide in -slide out process, the technology would of course continually update as the result of field testing ! Best be prepared financially if you desire to be the guy with the first one!

AWESOME!!!! I knew they could do this. Farm equipment is big & bulky but they drive very slow and not huge distances.

Get farmers to buy these and then slap solar PV on their barns and put wind turbines in their fields such that they can tractor around without paying a penny for fuel!!

I just don’t really see this as working well. You expect farmers to only use something for 4 hours and then go put it away for a charge?

With the automated harvesting equipment they already have a lot of vehicles run a lot longer than people can run. I guess they could come back and plug themselves in but still down time equals lost income.

I have NEVER seen an EV advertised as having only ‘x hours of range’. There isn’t a countdown which starts after the plug is disconnected.

Without knowing the average speed/power used over time, this figure is meaningless!

Fuel usage for farm tractors is rated in hours of operation, not miles of range.

There’s a good reason for that. If the tractor is going fast, it’s likely not pulling much of a load. If it’s going slow, then it’s probably pulling a heavy load. The energy usage will actually tend to be higher when it’s going slower.

It would make sense to use the same measurement for EV tractors.

My whole family on both sides farms so I can answer any practical questions. I’ve driven tractor perhaps thousands of hours in my youth. A tractor is measured in hours. Distance is a non-issue. Over 90% of the running time is spent at full throttle all the way to the wall with all horsepower used. i.e. the full 300KW (this is for field work by the way not light duty). Most of the time that is at a speed that wouldn’t exceed 5 MPH. Large tractors like this when field work is being done are used 20 hours per day with multiple drivers. There simply aren’t family farms in any number these days. Most run a fleet much like a trucking company. A service vehicle refuels/services them. Down time is the enemy. They don’t stop for more than a few minutes during a day that is spring/fall field work. Fuel usage is also measured in time not miles. So you end up with something like 20 gallons per hour of diesel or over 300 per day. Hopefully you can see the impracticalities of something like believing a wind turbine or something can fuel this thing. These machines can run $300,000.… Read more »

Note that I would say a plug in tractor would be more useful in a scenario such as ‘yard’ work or ‘utility’ tractor. Tractors that don’t run full load and aren’t doing field work. Things like cattle feeding, pushing snow in the winter, pulling carts, cleaning barns, general light duty. These are tractors that run for shorter periods under lighter loads and can recharge.

at 300 kW you wouldn’t even get 30 min out of this tractor. The duty cycle that you describe is not very well suited to a battery 20 hours operation 5 hours charging is possible but 300kW would mean you’d need 6 MWh on board your tractor and a charging station at around 1.2 MW or perhaps 3.6 MW if you have 3 vehicles. Doesn’t sound all that feasible for a remote location that might be running off grid.

I think you are right it really comes down to a fuel of some description. I geuss if we are going to go completely zero emission that would be hydrogen or if you wanted to go carbon neutral it would be something that can be made from renewable energy so either a biofuel or synthetic fuel from a hydrogen base like methanol, DME or ammonia.

Or possibly synthetic methane.

There are many choices when it comes to making synthetic fuel. It’s a tragedy that the insane boondoggle of trying to use compressed hydrogen as a fuel has gotten so much attention and so much tax money wasted on it. There are numerous alternatives for synthetic fuel, and perhaps one or more of them may actually be practical and perhaps even, someday, economically competitive with petroleum.

of course! I happened on this web site while shopping for an electric utility tractor. Never mind core tasks of traditional agriculture, good points have been made by other interveners about needing to run loooong uninterrupted times. I need to clear snow from a 2 km steep dirt driveway, need a snow blower for that the pick up- mounted plow is proving inadequate. Also pole digging tool to install fences, spoon to dig trenches, wood chipper to dispose of waste vegetatin and make mulch. All these things i could run the machine 4 h just organize my work so I have something else to do while it recharges. My travel vehicle will be an all electric car. I plan to produce the energy locally. so having the Utility machine being electric as well makes sense. Plus: combustion engines that are used seasonally (chain saw, bush saw…). are so annoying to maintain. Do you know if anyone builds what I am looking for?

Thanks for your very useful farm information, it is greatly appreciated. But I am going to have to disagree with some of your points. “Hopefully you can see the impracticalities of something like believing a wind turbine or something can fuel this thing.” Certainly a wind turbine can help charge these! Take a look at how much electricity modern big wind turbines produce. Solar can help too. Remember, electric motors are torque monsters and they are very efficient. It is electric motors that are used to power diesel-electric trains. The diesel part is just used to generate electricity for the electric part that actually propels the train engine. “These machines can run $300,000. Parking them to recharge just isn’t going to happen. Swappable batteries? OK nope. The size/weights involved here are insane.” Well . . . not really. This one lists a 130 kWh lithium-ion battery. Well, Tesla was able to swap out an 85 KWH battery out in less than 2 minutes. How about splitting that into a set of two 65 KWH batteries that can be swapped in 5 minutes. Or have 2 separate 85 KWH batteries and boost it up to 170 KWH! I think the biggest… Read more »

So buy the tractor, buy a spare battery, and buy equipment to do the swap???

How much is all of that gonna cost 🙂

Tesla did it as a demonstration because there was govt money strings attached. It was also in a fixed place. Bear in mind these tractors are often dozens of miles from their home ‘garage’. The energy density of diesel is immense. Also as noted running balls out this whole battery pack will last 30 minutes. Remember that power is KW and energy is KWH so a 300KW motor running full out will last 0.5 hours. 30 minutes of operation time. The stated ‘4 hours’ of operation time is one that is more suited to what I described as light duty yard work and not tillage. Field tillage. Have you ever stood next to a large field tractor? They have 300 gallon tanks and crazy stuff like that. Now however you want to discuss something like a skid steer loader (such as a Bobcat or Gehl) which is small, has lots of stop/start, generally uneven loads, short operation times, etc then it matters. Many of those types of things (think fork lift level of engine) can easily go with battery. Haying equipment moving bales and stacking them, etc. The big field ops though? Loooooonnnnggggg way from replacing diesel. LNG solution similar… Read more »

Thanks for insightful information.

Just to put these numbers in perspective. 300 gallons of diesel per day is huge load of energy. Even with the high efficiency of electric propulsion, it would take about 3000 kWh of electricity to replace it. That’s about 23 full charges of this 130 kWh battery.

There might be corner case uses for electric tractors, and electrification can start from corner cases, but technology is definitely not ready for normal farming use.

I suppose this is just a research project for John Deere, and a first sign of things that may some day become reality, but not yet.

There are a lot of family farms which are a lot smaller than these megacorporate farms, where the tractor really could go back to the barn to recharge for an hour, no problem.

And the entire field could probably be plowed in 8 hours, too. Break for lunch.

speculawyer said: “But I am going to have to disagree with some of your points.” Every person posting to this discussion who actually has some experience working on a farm says this is impractical. Perhaps you should actually think about what we’re saying, instead of assuming we are all wrong. “This one lists a 130 kWh lithium-ion battery.” That seems woefully under-powered, if it’s intended to run a large four-wheeled tractor the size of the one shown in the picture above, assuming that tractor is actually pulling the sort of heavy load that tractors are designed to pull. “Well, Tesla was able to swap out an 85 KWH battery out in less than 2 minutes.” Yes, and they did it using a very expensive ($500k+) hydraulic lift adapted from the lifts made for the military, which are used to mount bombs and missiles under the wings of fighter planes. As I recall, (Project) better place used a similar, and similarly expensive, hydraulic lift for their battery swap stations. “How about splitting that into a set of two 65 KWH batteries that can be swapped in 5 minutes. Or have 2 separate 85 KWH batteries and boost it up to 170… Read more »

It seems like John Deere has some credibility though, and they’ve chosen to make this thing. So perhaps there are some details we don’t know, or some markets where it could work.

Farmers around here also don’t always own all the equipment needed. For instance, sorghum farmers contract with grain combine owners who move from field to field to field running non-stop during harvest. These folks then load them on semi’s and move from state to state following the different harvest times (south to north).

Exactly. Not exactly something you can carry a wind farm around with. The MWH necessary to charge a group of combines during harvest would quite literally require a portable wind farm full of MW level wind turbines.

Hi All,

I live in Idaho on 200 acres, that I rent out and I have several friends who are medium to large farmers, who have been snickering at me for 4 or 5 years as I have leased a Leaf, now Mercedes Benz B Class, with 3 Tesla 3 on deposit and order.

One farmer has been in an alternative energy project and said he expected it to happen, another wss shock and Awed ( pun intented) to drive by Elon’s Gigafactory and has invested in Tesla.

Additionally, I own a small Garbage company and am looking at investing in 3 new Electric / diesel Turbine generators Wrightspeed/Mack/McNeilus garbage trucks,
because my fuel /repair bills savings will pay for new truck payments for the first time in 30 years.

Guys we have come a very long way in a very short time, and it is very rewarding to show my snickering farmer buddies a “John Deere” electric tractor video.

Observe this is being introduced in Europe, where a month ago I rode on a electric boat carrying 72 passengers with enough charge to make 3 trips a day.

Realize this is amazing progress we have made.


Tim will large American farms consider electric tractors?

Who cares? There’s enough of a market without “large American farms”.

There are, for instance, small American farms. They still exist. They still buy tractors.

Will a Nikola type tractor work?

Large heavy-duty BEV tractors are going to have the same limitations that long-distance semi trucks have: Current batteries are too limited to run the vehicle as many hours per day as they need to run.

Speculawyer made an analogy with diesel-electric train locomotives. That’s a good analogy. Those locomotives use diesel fuel, not energy stored in batteries, as the power source. A heavy tractor could do the same; or could use any practical fuel. On my Grandpa’s farm, our most powerful tractor was actually powered by propane.

Practical BEV heavy duty tractors, just like practical long-distance BEV semi tractors, will have to wait for cheaper, lighter, faster-charging batteries.

Nikola has, sadly, switched to a fuel cell powered by compressed hydrogen for their semi tractor. That won’t be any more practical than using compressed hydrogen for passenger cars, and for exactly the same reasons. No need to drag the conversation here off into the weeds of that.

When Lithium Battery prices come within reach, you will see farmers buying these machines. Dumping diesels for simple electric motors makes real sense to practical farmers. For the same reason, you will see even simple lawn tractors going electric. But, battery prices must come down first.

Change the chemistry to NCA or NCM , put on ti 350 kwh of battery , so the weight will be more or less the same , and you have 12 hours of more of running time.Then reenginyer the whole shape of the tractor , to put the cabin to the front of the tractor so you can control better what’s in front of you ,and to acomodate the 350 kwh of battery.If you look closely to the batteries on the video , they are normal CALB batteries , good cheap and realiable , but i think , that if you go the automotive way , like panasonic or lg , you can get lower costs and better density by choosing diferent chemistries.

“Then reenginyer the whole shape of the tractor , to put the cabin to the front of the tractor so you can control better what’s in front of you”

Um…I’ve spent some time on a tractor in a field, generally, what’s going on behind you is just as important as what’s going on in front. That’s why most tractor cabs have 360 views…

The farmers around here typically only use them a handful of times per year but at those times; especially harvest, it can be near non-stop operating (driver swaps) until the crop is in.

Also, the fields here are HUGE so roundtrip drive distance to/from barn/charge station would eat up too much batt.

The driverless tractors operating in the fields in the movie “Intersteller” were cool.

Yup. A single farmer may have fields in different locations, separated by some miles. That’s why you sometimes see tractors and combine harvesters being driven on public roads.

Again, driving a tractor home every four hours to swap batteries is not something any farmer would want to waste time and money with, especially not on a daily basis when the tractor needs to be busy as many hours per day as possible.

But, can it tow? Apparently, all EVs need to tow according to sparkev.

Sustainability is huge in Europe. This could be a selling point for the organic food industry.

“Our farm uses 100% sustainable solar fuel for our emissions free electric tractors! I’d pay a bit more for that!

Four hours is pushing it. I like the swappable pack idea.

There must be data on emissions/C02 of farm equipment worldwide. I would think clean fuel around food harvesting would be a very big plus. We don’t think about the unfiltered diesel exhaust spewing around the harvesting and seeding of our wheat, corn and vegetables.

These Deere’s bring these thoughts to the forefront of our minds. When you really think about it – how fresh is the air in the countryside? Usually, it’s one of the reasons we head out into the hinterlands – for that refreshment only nature can provide. Like the positive ions near a rolling river and that peaceful feeling seeing miles and miles of harvest lands. Now think of all those emissions! Ew!

I think there’s a lot to this.

High Center of gravity? Hope your fields are all flat….


Can I quick charger that puppy at Kroger?

It has taken forever for a large corporation to do this. Been done years ago. If you use good old lead-acid (weight is an asset in a tractor) you can dump charge from a stationary battery pack in a few minutes and be right back to work. You can do this all day.

Also this-

Just need a extra long power-cord, and you can keep it plugged in haha

Actually this is exactly how an EV-based farm might work. Leave the day-to-day tractor work to BEVs like the one above but for those vast multi-thousand acre fields, a tethered EV that lays out its power line as it comes and goes, connected to the grid in one corner of the field is a much more practical and completely feasible proposition. Many of the worlds biggest mining machines work like this already and have done for years.

But realistically we are going to have to move away from our current appallingly inefficient model of food production to a much more efficient system that does not involve bashing 7 bells out the soil with huge machines half a dozen times a year as well as wasting vast amounts of water that a crop uses to grow. Hydroponics is the future of agriculture though most people currently alive won’t much fancy what will come out of the factory gate.

It seems like they designed for battery swapping:
-130 kWh lithium-ion battery
-up to four hours or 55 km of range
-three hours recharge

So after 3 to 4 hours of use, you back, swap the batteries, and get back out there.

Electric motors don’t have to muck around with transmissions so you could drive pretty quickly back to the farm after you disconnect whatever you are pulling.

Family farms won’t be running these big tractors. These will be on corporate farms with thousands of acres. Big tractors are delivered to distant fields on flatbed trucks, so driving back to the shed for a charge isn’t practical.

On the other hand, maybe if could be cheap enough to install high powered chargers on telephone poles.

I see this as a prototype. They are trying new stuff out, so they took an existing tractor frame and put some batteries under the hood. They’re probably not even the highest density batteries. In the pictures you can clearly see that they have a lot more room for batteries. Unlike on cars, the battery pack on a tractor doesn’t need to be compact or lightweight. So, let’s say that they double the size of the battery (very easy to do on that existing frame), and that they’re using batteries with twice the energy density in a few years. So now you have a tractor that will operate for 16 hours. That’s starting to sound pretty darn practical! Also, if it’s anything like cars, the cost of the electricity will be about a quarter of the cost of gas, making this thing a pretty good economic proposition.

On a side note, most old farmers are half deaf from working with loud equipment all day. Quiet machinery will be nice.

And remember, this is an initial prototype.

It’s certainly true that a heavy battery pack isn’t a problem for a large tractor, so long as that pack stays on the tractor.

But if you plan to swap out battery packs every four hours of run time, then it’s a major problem. You can bring the tractor into the shop to install wheel weights using an overhead hoist or whatever, but nobody is gonna put up with doing that every four hours. They just wouldn’t buy the tractor if you had to do that. That’s not merely inconvenient; that would be seriously cutting into the amount of time the tractor can be used in a day.

I think the idea is good but more like 100or so kw the tractor that moves hay tows field bins slasher use jobs of light to med loads
Solar rechargeable and wind with storage and grid back up 300 kw need very large pack to be usefull

Sorry didn’t put reason for smaller
Big tractors tend to get used 24 /7
For a short time then in the shed
Dosen’t match well with solar and wind
Most efficient first are tractors used most days plus charging storage needed has much better return on investment and smaller capital needs

Sure, this could work well for a smaller, light duty tractor, and a 130 kWh battery pack should be good enough for such a tractor. But nobody is gonna buy that huge 4-wheel-drive tractor in the photo above and then only use it for light duty purposes.

They need to have at least 300kwh battery capacity that to replace 100liter diesel.
By using tesla batteries that weight should be about 1500kg.
To recharge this battery it would be suitable to have something like the tesla powerpack (200kwh) who can be charged longer time at lower rate and/or with solar power. Then the powerpack can be used to fastcharge the tractor.
But i dont think this is suitable for big tractors who are used for heavy continuing work yet.
The battery capacity must be higher to replace high hourly fuel consumtion.
But i think this concept will work now for wheel loader, excavators etc who has a fuelconsumtion about 100-300 liters a day.
if it is only 100 liters the powerpack for fast charging wouldnt be necessary.)

So how about a decentralized infrastructure?

Multiple batteries out in the fields, hooked up to wind turbines.

Keep the batteries at the same height as the battery tray in the tractor, so they can “roll on / roll off”. Changing could take under fifteen minutes, and you’re back to work.

Believe it or not, I hadn’t seen your post when I posted mine!

i assume that the issue is that deere wanted to make this BEV tractor compatible with all of the attachments that farmers already use.

Yes I also like that “roll on / roll off” idea. It is the same I would do with semi trucks, have the battery roll in from an elevated dock into the bulge of the truck or here the tractor.

How about having a battery pack on wheels, not in the tractor? That way when you run low you could pull up next to a wind turbine and swap the low pack for a full one.

Large electric buses now use rapid charging stations along their route to quickly charge the large batteries they use. Its not uncommon to see utility poles around farm fields and perhaps these rapid charging stations can be set up near the fields.
Also, keep in mind, this the first application, there will be a lot learned and subsequent versions will show improvements.

Perhaps there is a reason they present the this tractor in Europe, indeed since farms are much smaller, typically a family farm of 50 hectare, as opposed to a large farm of 500 hectares in north America, it makes much shorter trips between field and farm in Europe. The field are also smaller so it takes less energy to do the work and an electric tractor can manage it. European size farms are simply a better fit for electric tractors in the present state of battery technology.

I completely agree.

This is for the European market where I guesstimate 1-5% of all farmers could practically use it (at least as their “second” tractor)

I don’t exactly know what is going on in the US farming sector, but from what I know (huge fields) I can see why most US based commenters can’t see any practical use case.

Nonetheless its the first step and in 5 years we will see John Deere come up with a 500kWh monster! Yeeeehaaaa!!!

Btw once agricultural equipment will have reached autonomy level 5 the trend to bigger machines will reverse and we will see smaller units again…

If it takes an hour to fully charged the battery then there is no problem

Most are missing the point, as usual. It’s a beginning, and a very good one. In time, JD will likely have an electric tractor that will run continuously for eight hours. It’s a simple problem: Energy Density. It will be solved.

Deniers not welcome!!

Hmm k; I love the 4 hour work days, specially during the season. Looks like we will need three tractors just to replace one diesel work horse.

The nice thing about putting Elon Musk on the job, is that he is not moved by convention. He would redesign the tractor… My guess is that it would have 4 model 3 motors on it. Like total of 1,200 HP of motors on it. MUCH less maint on it. He is already working on semis now.

A break to recharge would not be a problem…
He is working on AI now…. He will probably having the whole farm done almost automatically.
Have you seen Teslas snake charger? Recharge at the end of the row and back?
Imagine a self powered self sustaining farm.
Talk about independence!

Fields in Poland near the Baltic are littered with wind turbines. California homes built after 2020 will have to have solar roofs. Here in the US Iowa seems to be leading in renewables, so much so that GE will stop making turbines for coal burning power plants. The revolution in under way, the problem is Big Oil and his $whores on the Hill making WW3 to save the status quo.