July Farm News Member Profile Solectrac, Inc.

Written By: Brytann Busick
Published: July 1, 2020

Solectrac, Inc., located in Northern California, has developed 100% battery powered, all electric tractors for agriculture and recreational applications. Their tractors allow farmers around the world to power their tractors by using the sun, wind, and other clean renewable sources of energy. Founder and CEO Stephen Heckeroth said that Solectrac is on its way to becoming the standard of electric agricultural and utility equipment around the globe.

Heckeroth has dedicated his life to finding alternatives to burning fossil fuels. He received a degree in Architecture and for 25 years designed and built solar homes. Then in 1990, he shifted his focus to designing and building electric vehicles. 

“After designing and building several electric tractors for farmers, I received a commission to build an experimental electric tractor for Ford/New Holland in 1995,” Heckeroth said. “Then in 1996, I was commissioned by a Japanese company (EFRIG) to build an electric tractor that could be used to explode land mines left behind after wars.”

He said that these early electric tractor designs produced new innovations – steer by wire, zero radius steering, remote control operation, the use of wheel motors, on board inverter/chargers for mobile AC power, motors mounted on implements to replace dangerous PTO’s and the first ever use of linear actuators on a full function electric tractor. 

So, with decades of experience under his belt and fueled by the mission to make a positive difference in the world, Heckeroth founded Solectrac LLC in 2012, with the goal of taking small farm electric tractors into commercial production. 

The company grew out Heckeroth’s commitment to providing an alternative to fossil fuels. Now, Solectrac is the only company offering commercial sales of quiet, zero emission Electric Tractors in the U.S. 

The electric motors used in Solectrac tractors are more than 90% efficient, have only one moving part, can go for decades without maintenance, produce maximum torque throughout the slow operating speeds of tractors and produce no pollution or Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. 

“Solectrac offers the eUtility electric tractor that can do the work of any 2WD, 40 HP diesel tractor on the market,” Heckeroth said.

The company distributes Farmtrac Compact Electric Tractor (CET) that can do the work of any 4WD, 30 HP diesel tractor and has two more models under development. The 2WD, 30 HP eFarmer is designed for row crop farming and the 4WD, 70 HP e70N designed for vineyard, orchards and other high HP utility applications. 

The company has an assembly facility and office on the northern California coast and is leasing a new facility in Santa Rosa.

Heckeroth said that members of Soletrac’s team are dedicated professionals with diverse backgrounds and skills in design, manufacturing, business management, communications, sales and marketing. 

“Our team comprised of hard-working, talented individuals who have logged in thousands of hours creating an efficient, simple company dedicated to making sure everything Soletrac produces brings real, long-term value and increased productivity and environmental quality to their customers,” Heckeroth said. 

He added that the company’s biggest challenge, though, is to get the word out that electric tractors are available and that their performance is equal to or better than diesel tractors.

“I took about 20 years for electric cars to take hold in society,” Heckeroth said. “ I hope that electric tractors will be accepted more quickly.”

Another challenge is range and run time of the battery however, Solectrac solved that challenge with its patented exchangeable battery packs, which can be used to extend run time or for back-up power. Their technology allows you to swap depleted batteries for charged batteries easier and more quickly than changing an implement.

Soletrac’s other innovations include the use of linear actuators, which are more efficient and have no toxic fluids, instead of hydraulics for lifting the 3-point hitches. Their eFarmer model has 3 hitches to allow three operations in one pass thereby greatly improving efficiency. It also is designed to allow uninterrupted visibility for cultivating row crops.

Despite challenges, the Soletrac team has received national and international recognition for its designs. 

The company has received large grants from the US Indian Science and Technology Fund, which resulted in the design of the eFarmer electric tractor, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

Heckeroth said that the grants offered his team the chance to develop, test and improve the design of needed components that are key to successful commercial production.

In 2014, Solectrac was awarded a 3-year research and development grant by the India-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF). With the final prototype produced, Solectrac won a second grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to commercialize the production of all-electric tractors.

Recently, Solectrac was a finalist at Food Funded, an Entrepreneurship and Investor Fair and received the Escorts 2019 Innovation Award. 

Since 2019, Solectrac has been a California Benefit Corporation and a certified B Corp, which means that social and environmental impacts are considered and tracked in Solectrac’s decision-making process. 

“As the company grows, we will be creating needed employment opportunities in assembly, sales, and administration,” Heckeroth said. “We have also provided education on how to farm more sustainably by showing and demonstrating electric tractors at many ag schools, conferences and expos as well as individual farms.”

He said that supporting the local community is truly one of the best ways to affect positive change.

“Over the years, I have been involved in my local community, from serving as a member of the School Board and County Planning Commission to hosting a show on renewable energy on KZYX public radio in Northern California.”

His favorite part of working in the agriculture industry and with farmers are the many opportunities to be out in nature and watching the many miracles in the interaction between soil, water, air and sun that make plants grow and animals thrive.

“We joined the Farm Bureau because we have a shared mission of producing agricultural products while innovating new, profitable and sustainable farming methods,” Heckeroth said. “We want to be an active participant with the groups we support and we appreciate the Farm Bureau, its goals and the work it does for its members.”

He said that his goal is to help lead the agricultural community toward energy independence by producing electric tractors charged by on site clean renewable energy.

To gain further support for this mission, Solectrac launched its equity crowd funding campaign in May.

“We hope to fund the expansion of production in our assembly center in Santa Rosa, as well as finalize our eFarmer model and start development of a 70 HP equivalent electric tractor,” Heckeroth said. “We are looking toward a future where small farms will be able to provide food and energy security for their local communities.”

Visit https://www.solectrac.com/ to learn more.

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