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RE: (ET) ET power
- Subject: RE: (ET) ET power
- From: "Dean A. Stuckmann" <dstuck lakefield net>
- Date: 8 Jun 99 22:58:30 -0500
- Sender: owner-elec-trak cosmos5 phy tufts edu
I must have a different Popular Science article than the one that
Larry has because I didn't see any reference to 30 HP. I have the
text of that article below (June '70) for any one who is interested.
In any case, I think that using one motor to power everything is not
the way to go. I would think that there would be alot of inefficiency
with the mechanical attachment drives that would shorten the range.
And its so nice to just plug in the attachment and go.
One thing to watch for on the mower decks, is the blade balance. I
had a deck given to me for a spare. I plugged it in to test it and it
buzzed and vibrated like crazy. The guy who had it must have always
sharpened the blades while they were on the deck. They were all out
of whack. A touch up of the blades is OK while mounted, but put the
blades on a balancer every now and then. It should make the bearings
last longer and maybe the magnets won't let go as easy.
Dean A. Stuckmann
Runs on Batteries, Powers Your Electric Tools, Too
PS tests the garden tractor thatÕs going to shape up the
If youÕre wondering what it will be like to drive an electric car
some day, you can get a preview right now by trying General
ElectricÕs brand-new electric tractor. And if youÕve also been
wondering when someone was finally going to do something about the air
and noise pollution that surround suburban lawn chores, hereÕs your
chance to be that someone.
Make no mistakeÑthis is an all-electric tractor thatÕs on the
market now! Not a pilot model, not a low-production, market-testing
prototype, the Elec-Trak is in the lawn- and garden-tractor market
with all four wheels solidly on the ground and with five years of test
models behind it to Insure bug free performance.
Even better, the price is rightÑjust about in the middle of the 10,
12, and 14 hp price range, depending on the size you buy. You pay no
premium for electric power. HereÕs what you get:
¥ Full power to equal gasoline.
¥ Torque better than gasoline.
¥ Separate motor power on mower, snow thrower, and tiller.
¥ No starting problems.
¥ No fuel problems or hazardous gasoline handling.
¥ No tune-ups, spark plugs, or hot manifolds.
¥ No noise, fumes, belts, or chains.
¥ A rolling power source for other yard tools.
WhatÕs the catch? If there is one, I didnÕt find it in
test-driving the Elec-Trak. YouÕll be able to drive one yourself
shortly, but hop aboard with me now. IÕll take you on a test run so
you can see how it goes.
Speed: seven mph. GE says the tractor is designed to fit the human
body. YouÕll find that the seat, leg room, control placement, brake,
steering, and visibility seem natural all around. Reach left and thump
home the main circuit breaker to make all circuits Ògo.Ó Turn the
safety key that keeps the kids from unauthorized use, and choose your
Low-low is very low indeed. High (D-2, itÕs marked) will take you
over hill and dale at seven mph--faster than needed for most work. As
you drive youÕll find that even in D-2 you can throttle back to a
crawl and still have loads of torque. This torque has a profound
effect on tractor operation--more on that later.
For the time being, go ahead, dump the throttle wide openÑthereÕs
no clutch to fool with. YouÕll hear a quiet hum as the tractor moves
ahead, For a moment, youÕll be surprised; this isnÕt quite the
surging power you expected. But within a second youÕll hear a low
click and the speed will increase. A quick series of these clicks and
acceleration periods, and youÕre under way at full speed.
GE calls this Òprogramed starting,Ó Why have it? For safety,
Talking to Bruce Laumeister who has headed GEÕs long-range
electric-car development project and is father of the Elec-Trak, I
gathered that early tractor models were bombs on takeoff. It figures.
Electric motors have maximum torque at stall. Unlike a gasoline
engine, an electric can light out from scratch with lots of scramble.
Starting up a hill, too sudden acceleration could flip a tractor onto
its back. Programed starting prevents that.
The ÒfuelÓ gauge. Once you get the feel of the Elec-Trak, take a
look at the instrument panel, YouÕll see a Òfuel levelÓ gauge,
which in reality indicates the level of the battery charge. A second
gauge shows how much power youÕre pulling. Maybe in the wrong gear
and the right circumstances you could force the needle into the red. I
never did and I tried hard to make the machine sweat.
Flick the switch just to the left of the gauges. A built-in electric
lift will raise the front-mounted mower, or snow thrower or dozer
blade. The lift is standard on all models. My only real criticism of
the tractor is the size of this switch. Cutting grass on a warm day,
the size is fine; but trying to jockey a snow thrower with your hands
in mittens is an all-thumbs fumbling session.
Now flick the implement power lever. YouÕll hear another steady hum
-unless the wind is blowing or the birds are chirping loudly; the
mower Is really that quiet. Of course, you can hear the blades on the
42-inch mower, but itÕs a low fluttering noise. Your neighbor will
never know youÕre cutting grass.
When youÕre satisfied that the Elec-Trak really works, and youÕve
become accustomed to the silence, try some hills and rough going. The
tractor has amazing traction and handling. About that torque I
mentioned before: Hills and heavy loads wonÕt slow the Elec-Trak
down. Confidential GE films (which youÕll never see) show Elec-Traks
pulling conventional tractors of equivalent power backwards, with
their wheels spinning. And this with three extra men standing on the
conventional tractor for extra traction.
Safety is built in. The Elec-Trak has some more surprises in the field
of safety. The safety interlocks on the tractor are a silent testimony
to the engineerÕs efforts to outguess even the most careless user.
Flip off the mower switch. The motors and blades stop, almost
instantly. Three seconds is the maximum coast time, even for mower
cutters swinging free in the air. Over grass, they stop almost
Bounce up off the seat. The tractor and mower will stop dead. Picture
yourself momentarily bounced overboard, The tractor would stop. If,
while trying to scramble back into the seat, you closed the
weight-sensing switch underneath it, the tractor would not move; a
seat-only circuit breaker offers too much chance of running over the
feet or legs of someone trying to regain the seat from an awkward
So, to get moving again, you must once more be seated properly,
deliberately turn off the switch, close the throttle, and reset the
controls. In short, the tractor makes you tell it specifically what
you want it to do. Cross it up in an unsafe manner and itÕs
programed to stop like a wise old horse.
Unplug it and go. If the Elec-Trak could do nothing but cut grass,
plow snow, and till soil, it would still be welcome news. After all,
nobody enjoys fooling with gasoline, oil, belts and starting problems.
The closer a piece of equipment comes to a refrigerator in the
Òconvenience of owner neglect,Ó the better, ThatÕs another
Elec-Trak strong point. Plug it in when not in useÑit takes care of
its own fuel needs. Unplug it and youÕre ready to go. Half-charge
takes three hours; full-charge, five to six. YouÕll have to dribble
a smidgen or tap water into the batteries about once a month during
the summer. In winter, plug it in and forget it till you need it. Cold
outside storage? The batteries love it. When you want to move snow,
youÕll have no starting problems.
Add to that the fact that the Elec-Trak is a willing, portable source
of plug-in power anywhere you drive it. Edging, clipping, tilling,
hedge trimming. drilling, grinding, or spraying Ñall are available
in a complete line of hand tools wired to run on the tractorÕs super
safe 36-volt system. ThereÕs also a powerful arc welder, priced at
Another convenience that shouldnÕt be overlooked is the mounting of
the front mower deck. This, and other implements, hang on what GE
calls a ÒstabÓ mounting, You simply stab the mounts into frame
channels at the front or rear of the machine. Obviously itÕs a lot
easier to push in an electric plug than to rig belts, chains, or drive
YouÕll appreciate the flip-up, rigging of the mower deck, too. An
easy lift on the front edge turns it up for full access to the cutter
blades. A bonus is possible here if you buy an electric drill with a
grinding attachment. Keening up the blades takes only a flip of the
deck and a few minutes with the grinder, driven by power from the
Emergency power. Customers with an eye to home power failures may
contemplate the potential of the tractor power pack for emergency
power, GE has thought about this, too. They offer an inverter to
provide 60-cycle, 115-volt power for lighting, and theyÕre working
on a unit that would keep your furnace or well pump going for a while
Okay. What about the batteries? How long will they last, and What
would it cost to replace them?
¥ A charge will give you six or seven acres of grass cutting.
¥ Warranty life is five years; expected average life is eight to 10.
¥ Batteries cost $32 each, $192 for all six.
In practical terms, the tractor will run longer on a single charge
than any ordinary owner is likely to use it in a continuous session.
The batteries, an advanced lead-acid design, actually have about 25
percent more, power after two years than they do new. This results
from increased surface activity.
Running costs. If the cost of the batteries, plus the cost of charging
at usual household rates, is compared with the cost of gasoline,
electricity is the winner. Assuming you buy regular gas at about 35
cents a gallon and burn two gallons an hour, youÕre probably looking
at $58 per season based on 20 hours a month for four months).
Disregarding oil, spark plugs, tune-ups,s, etc.. this amounts to about
$232 in Four years. Even if you ignored the Elec-Trak warranty and
bought a whole new Set of batteries after Four years, youÕd spend
Initial cost is in the ball park, as well. The recommended base prices
are: $1,150 for the 10-hp, E-12; $1,295 for the 12-hp E-15; $1,495 for
the 14-hp E-20. This is about midrange for comparable gasoline
There are, of course, differences in detail between models. For
example, the two smaller machines offer the option of standard or
heavy-duty batteries. The drive train, power lift, tires, and physical
sire are all a bit different on the big E-20. All models are 69 inches
long-certainly man-sized. The E-20 is 42 inches wide, compared to 36
and 37 inches for its smaller brothers.
No matter how you look at itÑfrom the antipollution angle, in noise
abatement, safety, starting convenience, portable power features, or
just performanceÑthis tractor is going to shake up the market!