First fully electric farm loader to enter series production

Agriculture

First fully electric farm loader to enter series production

With its new eHoftrac, Weidemann GmbH is now putting a zero-emission work truck on the market. Following a period of trials, the new farm loader begins series production in autumn 2014. The drive technology is being supplied by Linde Material Handling.

A farm loader is extremely versatile: from transport tasks in agriculture and forestry or earth-moving in the construction industry to street and sidewalk cleaning in towns and cities, the “tractor’s little brother” can be used for a multitude of different tasks. Roughly 40 years ago Weidemann developed the first Hoftrac loader for agricultural use. Now Weidemann is set to become the first commercial vehicle manufacturer to equip a farm loader with electric motors as standard. For propulsion the company is relying on components and software from Linde Material Handling.

Zero-emission and low-noise farm operation

Weidemann aims to sustainably reduce agricultural emissions with the new eHoftrac. At the same time, noises levels are also to be reduced on the farm – a benefit above all in animal husbandry. Weidemann has clearly defined the requirements for its electric loader in advance: the eHoftrac had to achieve the same performance as the combustion-engined model without being significantly more expensive.

“That presented a number of technical challenges,” explains Jan Prechel, Head of Vehicle Development at Weidemann. “The electric motors have to fit in the existing compact installation space for diesel engines and still produce the same performance. In addition, the software for the Hoftrac has to be modified to make the vehicle handle more dynamically, especially when reversing (turning). During development we compared the solutions of different suppliers and in the end decided in favour of Linde.”

The electrically driven Hoflader from Weidemann in action.

Prototype with forklift components

Working with the Electronic Systems & Drives (ES&D) division at Linde, in autumn 2013 Weidemann produced a first prototype that satisfied all the technical requirements and was immediately operational after assembly. The drive technology is provided by tried-and-trusted system components of Linde forklift trucks: traction motors and inverters stem from a Linde reach truck and the pump motor from the standard series of electric forklifts. The developers have adapted the system communication software to the loader’s performance. As charging technology, Weidemann has deployed a 48-volt lead battery that is commonly used in agricultural applications. As a result, the eHoftrac can be operated continuously for two to three hours, after which the battery can be charged at an electric socket with the aid of an external charging unit.

From prototype to series production

Weidemann presented the prototype eHoftrac 1160 for the first time in November 2013 at Agritechnica in Hanover. A customer survey during the fair confirmed the great demand for electric farm loaders and strengthened the company’s decision to begin commercial production. Initially, until the end of 2014, 15 eHoftracs are to be thoroughly tested in extensive field trials. Next year, 150 vehicles are to be put on the market, and in 2016 this total is planned to rise to 500.

Linde will support the path to commercial production with technological know-how and a range of services. Wolfgang Klüpfel, Senior Project Manager at ES&D, explains the main goals of the next phase: “It is easy to develop a prototype for a new application with proven electric drive units. The great challenge now consists of defining standards for the production vehicles. While a prototype initially ‘only’ has to work, series production also requires detailed guidelines for quality, safety and maintenance. As a result, Linde’s contribution does not stop with the prototype. We will support the customer with our expertise and experience all the way through to commercial production – and also beyond that with services such as spare parts and maintenance.”

The electrically driven Hoflader from Weidemann in action. The eHoftrac 1160 in action.

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