New development kit for e-tractors

At Agritechnica, the research team will be demonstrating a possible application
At Agritechnica, the research team will be demonstrating a possible application for their modular system.
  • Research for the electrification of agricultural machinery

    Due to their special performance requirements, trucks and agricultural machinery still do not make it easy for engineers to bring them into the electric age. Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) are now demonstrating what a development kit for electric tractors could look like at the Agritechnica agricultural trade fair. The platform offers modules for various purposes and, if required, a kind of power bank as an exchangeable battery.

    Agriculture is one of the sectors of the economy that is feeling the effects of climate change most directly. Extreme weather events reduce yields in the fields and make planning increasingly difficult for farmers. However, tractors and agricultural machinery continue to be powered by diesel across the board. This is a problem that many manufacturers of agricultural machinery have not yet been able to solve on a broad scale due to various challenges, such as cost pressure or lack of access to technology. This is where the TUMtrac research project comes in. TUM researchers are working on a modular development kit for all-electric tractors. The aim is to support agricultural machinery manufacturers across all brands in the development of new tractor concepts. They will be presenting one possible variant at the Agritechnica trade fair.

    The team is focusing on small to medium-sized tractors, such as those used in fruit growing. "We see the possibility of electrification primarily for tractors that have to work many hours but must deliver constant power. Hop harvesting or fruit picking are ideal examples of this. Thanks to its modular structure, our tractor construction kit should be able to simulate and evaluate very different tractor concepts," explains Korbinian Götz, project manager of the research project at the Chair of Automotive Engineering at TUM. Tractors that can be designed with the modular system should be particularly well suited for 1,000 operating hours per year or more.

    Modular design of the functional carrier with exchangeable battery

    The special feature of TUMtrac is its modular design, which can be individually adapted to suit the area of application. The functional carrier exhibited at the trade fair shows what an overall concept could look like later on. A standardized floor assembly forms the basis of the tractor. This is supplemented by an interchangeable battery, which can be positioned at the front or rear of the vehicle depending on the task. The battery thus serves as a power source and at the same time as a counterweight for attachments such as mowers or snow ploughs.

    On the one hand, the removable battery reduces the weight of the vehicle, as it can be smaller than a permanently installed battery and therefore only the power that is actually needed is carried. Secondly, the batteries can also act as a kind of giant power bank. This means that electricity that farmers generate themselves using photovoltaics or wind power can be buffered and used for their own work. "What is currently still a marginal phenomenon in the car sector can be used specifically for the design of our tractor system in the agricultural sector. The exchangeable battery can offer agricultural businesses real added value through greater flexibility in use," says Markus Lienkamp, Head of the Chair of Vehicle Technology at TUM.

    Software and hardware from a single source

    In addition to the hardware, the research team is also focusing on the development of software adapted to the overall concept. After entering the desired requirements, the software can be used to evaluate different tractor concepts in terms of their economic efficiency for agricultural operations. The holistic approach is intended to support the modular approach of the platform, as the challenges in the respective working environment can be addressed quickly. The researchers are thus addressing the increasingly complex reality of work in agriculture. Constantly changing conditions require more flexibility in equipment. This is where TUMtrac could make a contribution to decarbonization in the agricultural sector - worldwide.