It was just in the fall of 2021 that CleanTechnica last spoke with the electric tractor manufacturer Solectrac. Since then, the California-based company has been hard at work and recently announced two new developments: the launch of its certified dealer network and moving into a new 36,000-square-foot production facility in Windsor, CA, which will be at full capacity in June 2022. (Here at CleanTechnica We report a lot about electric vehicles in the personal transportation space because they are an important part of the transition away from fossil fuels. Other types of vehicles are also being electrified, and electric tractors are far better for the environment than their diesel counterparts.)
There’s no better person to talk about Solectrac’s new growth than the company’s CEO, Mani Iyer, who generously answered some questions for CleanTechnica.
Why is adding a new dealership partner in the Pacific Northwest important, and about how many more electric tractors might you sell because of the addition?
The Solectrac dealer organization is key to our continued growth. We hope to double our monthly sales in the next year through our dealer network.
How does the Pacific Northwest expansion fit into the nationwide plan?
Washington and Oregon tractor industry sales in this tractor segment were over 4,000 units in 2021. Both states were in the top 20 states for tractor sales. These states also represent some of the earliest adopters of EV technology, and Washington is home to over 1,000 wineries, which are a key customer segment for Solectrac.
What are some key goals for the company over the next three to five years?
Over the next five years, we will focus on dealer growth, product expansion, technological improvements and production efficiency.
What kind of farms are using your electric tractors and what are they being used for?
Our main farm demographic are hobby farms, first-time tractor owners, equine, and organic farms. The 70 HP category e70N is designed for vineyards and orchards. Our tractors can be found primarily in Sonoma and Napa vineyards. They can also be found on a mushroom farm in Pescadero. Our e25 compact electric tractor is being used by Jack Johnson’s Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation.
What utilities are using them and what are they being used for?
Utilities are out front subsidizing all use of EV platforms. Both Southern CA Edison and Georgia Power have recently started developing programs related to credits/reimbursements to customers using EVs, as well as solar. Utilities are using various EV platforms, and we expect to see more subsides offered by them in addition to their own use.
What are the key benefits of using electric tractors over gas and diesel-powered ones?
Two key benefits of using electric tractors are zero emissions and low maintenance charges. The electric motor provides instant torque with only one moving part compared to roughly 300 parts in a diesel engine, reducing maintenance needs. The electric tractor can be charged from the utility grid or renewable sources of energy to further reduce its carbon footprint. The e70N can replace similar sized diesel tractors and eliminate the health impacts of harmful emissions and noise to operators.
Are some of your customers using their own solar power and wind power systems to charge their electric tractors?
Yes, a number of our customers use their own solar power systems — and a few are completely “off the grid.”
If so, is there an estimate of how much money they might save in fuel costs over the long term?
Previous studies have shown a savings of over $2,000/year. Considering recent increases in fuel prices, this savings is increasing this year.
So far, are all your customers in the US, or do you also have customers abroad?
We have tremendous interest abroad, but we are focused on the United States and Canada right now.
How much is the US electric tractor market projected to grow in the next ten years?
The compact tractor market continues to grow at a rate of close to 5% over 2021; which was also a record year. The electric tractor market today is only a small portion of this at less than 1%. The Global Electric Tractor Market is exhibiting a CAGR of 18.25% during the forecast period of 2021 to 2028, and we are looking to grow our market share.
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