Hybrid tractors that use electricity to supplement diesel engine power were a hot point of discussion at the 2013 Agricultural Machinery Conference held in Waterloo, IA. Agricultural engineers continue their work on machines that rely less on diesel fuel to help farmer-customers reduce fuel costs on the farm.

Andy Jennett, product engineer with John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group and moderator of the session on hybrid technology, says three areas were covered in the talk. One topic was internal combustion engines for electric generators. “Engine manufacturers, such as Cummins, are designing diesel engines specifically to be coupled to electric generators for hybrid vehicles instead of traditional mechanical or hydrostatic transmissions,” Jennett says.

Another topic covered: simulating controls for hybrid systems. “To keep development costs low, and consequently final sale prices, of hybrid vehicles, companies such as dSPACE are developing hardware and software to speed up engineering time,” Jennett says.

Rounding out the session was a presentation on the John Deere 644K hybrid wheel loader (see photo). “This vehicle represents one of the first commercially-available off-road hybrid vehicles for the medium-size construction industry,” Jennett says. “Third party tests have confirmed significant fuel savings and substantial productivity gains over traditional torque converter wheel loaders.”