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Electric tractor choices

Fwd'd from the ev list...

Date sent:              Sat, 7 Nov 1998 18:17:49 -0500
Send reply to:          ev listproc sjsu edu
From:                   goldie ev1 juno com (David E Goldstein)
To:                     ev listproc sjsu edu
Subject:                Re: (no subject) . . . > Electric Lawn Tractors

> >Trying to find an electric garden tractor, or conversion parts for
> >existing gasoline driven 12 hp tractor.  Any suggestions? Where could

> >I get parts or plans to build one? Looking for something inexpensive,
> under > $2,000.00 US.
> >                               Stuart
> >email:  skaufman inil com

Stuart, as I see it, there are three directions you can go.

1.  Buy a brand new electric tractor.  Yes, there is one, though it is 
pretty far out of your budget.   I can't resist mentioning it though, 
because it's such a nicely designed piece of machinery.  It has 
microprocessor logic, joystick control and zero turning radius, with 
individual wheel motors (front wheel drive).  It's built in Canada by 
Electric Tractor Corporation.  I don't know if they have any US dealers,

but if they don't they sure ought to.

It's, uh, a bit pricey at Can$7995 (US$5268).  It includes a 115 volt
inverter for portable power tools and the like, but other attachments
extra.  The 44" 3-motor mower deck costs Can$1695 (US$1117)and 
the dozer blade Can$585 (US$385).  Sigh.  ETC also have a simpler 
model, with conventional steering, for a slightly more affordable 
Can$5995 (US$3950).

See their webpage http://www.golden.net/~etc/ for more info.

2.  Convert a gas or diesel lawn tractor.  If you're reasonably handy,
are considering doing a car or truck conversion, this might make a good
introductory project.  Check EV parts suppliers.  I'm not endorsing 
these dealers (or slighting the ones I don't mention) when I list a few 

     Electric Vehicles of America http://www.inc.com/users/evainc.html
     Electro Automotive http://www.electroauto.com 
     Innevations  http://www.mcn.org/a/innevations/ 
     KTA Services  http://www.kta-ev.com
     Wilde EVolutions  http://www.Wilde-EVolutions.com/

Any of these folks should be able to recommend appropriate motors,  
controllers, contactors, and accessories.  You will have to dope out a 
way to mount the motor in place of the old engine and find places for 
all the batteries.

John Wayland, on this list, converted a tractor a couple years back.   
Though I haven't seen it -- I'd like to -- it's reportedly his usual 
outrageous work, right down to the high power stereo (yes, on a garden 
tractor).  I believe there have been others, too.  Do an archive search
http://crest.org/ev-list-archive/ for John's "heavy metal garden
and other tractor conversions.

Looking for a cheap way?  Visit local golf car dealers for used parts.  
Golf car motors and controllers are very reasonably priced, even new.  
With the tractor's low gearing, the more substantial golf car parts 
should give you ample power.  You need a motor rated at only 4-6 hp 
to equal a 12 hp gas engine.  In fact, peak hp with 36 volts and a 275 
amp Curtis golf car controller will easily be in the 12 hp range.

3.  A used GE Elec-trak.  I own one, and I'll echo what's been said 
here. They are indeed remarkable sturdy -- good thing, since any you 
find will be *at least* 25 years old already.

They are harder to find that they used to be.  However, if you watch the

classifieds and garage sales, you may stumble on one.  If you're not 
too fussy about condition or appearance, they are well within your 
budget; you should be able to pick up one in need of TLC for a few 
hundred dollars.  Often all you need to do to get one running is evict 
the mice <g>, vacuum out the insides, clean some contacts with very 
fine crocus cloth, and drop in new batteries.

A few notes about the Elec-trak.

Your best bet is to find a used one with all the attachments you are apt

to need.  New/rebuilt ones are available, but can cost many times what 
you paid for the tractor.  For example, a new mower deck with rebuilt 
motors (it has 3 of them; all ET attachments have their own motors) 
will set you back over $1200.

Unfortunately, it's getting more difficult to find Elec-trak bargains.
Elec-trak owners are almost collectors, grabbing every used machine 
they can find, to stock up on extra parts and attachments.  On the 
other hand, if you have such an owner in your area, you may be able to 
buy some of his spares.

Repair parts aren't as much of a problem as you might think.  A few 
shops can supply new old stock, and one operation (Technical Service 
in Wisconsin, 608 868-6220) actually manufactures and adapts parts 
for the ET.  Prices from this source can be a bit steep, but probably 
not much more so than buying parts from a lawn/garden dealer. 

ET's came in several models -- early, E-8, E-10, E-12, E-15 and E-20; 
later they added E-14 and E-16 models.  Unless you want to do just 
light lawn mowing, avoid the E-8.  The E-10 has double the energy on 
board and is more useful, but doesn't have the guts for heavy work.  
The E-12, E-15, and E-20 (large frame) tractors are most capable.  All 
E-10s, and late-production E-12 and E-14 tractors, use PM motors 
which are not as rugged as the wound-field motors in the other tractors.

Inspect carefully for rust around the frame.  Surface rust is no
but careless battery box maintenance (or just years of sitting behind 
the garage in the rain) can lead to serious structural weakening.  Also 
confirm that the motor runs (and that motors on attachments work too). 
Just about any other part can be replaced or improvised fairly
but the motors can be costly.

Good luck!   Let us know how you make out.

     David Roden          THE VIRTUAL PD         roden ald net
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