Convert Your Lawn Tractor to Electric Power

This versatile electric tractor is a super DIY project.


| June 12, 2008



tractor batteries

Three 12-volt batteries are wired in series to create a 36-volt system. 


KEN ALBRIGHT

Ken Albright of Columbia, Mo., converted a Case lawn tractor to run off battery power instead of gasoline. Mother Earth News interviewed him about the process.

Why did you decide to convert a garden tractor to electric power?
I bought 10 acres and needed some sort of equipment to help take care of the place. So I intentionally bought a used tractor that would probably need a new engine soon. I had already converted a car to run on batteries and really liked the result. Running on electricity does not directly produce any air pollution and is much quieter. The secondary pollution from producing the electricity is still much less than that from burning gasoline. And of course, there is the possibility of producing electricity with solar or wind power. Long range, I hope to charge the batteries via the sun.

How long did it take you to complete the conversion?
About 16 hours spread over a week.

How much did it cost?
About $1,100: the motor was $600; batteries, $300; welding, cable and miscellaneous parts, $200. The motor price was probably overkill. A good scavenger may find a motor for little or nothing from a floor scrubber, forklift or golf cart.

How long can you mow on one charge?
It is currently not set up to mow. I have been distracted with gardening and have not had the time to tinker with the mower. Its tasks for the immediate future are hauling wood (pulling a trailer) and plowing dirt or snow. When I'm using it hard, as in moving dirt, I get about 45 minutes of use before I start noticing a lack of power. Pulling a trailer full of wood, I get well over an hour of use. Like any machine, it depends on the effort required.

What parts are required?  
The basics are an electric motor, batteries, mounting brackets, wiring and switches. Some tractors may need a motor controller. If auxiliary systems such as lights are desired, a voltage converter may be required.

What kind of donor mowers work best?
I chose the Case tractor because it is driven by hydraulics. The motor turns a hydraulic pump, and that system does all the work. I chose that so there would be no need for a motor controller. The motor is simply on or off. Hydrostatic drive tractors and mowers would be similar. Straight mechanical drive, using gears, would require a motor controller to vary the speed. That would add to the conversion cost, but would likely also be more efficient. There are energy losses in hydraulic and hydrostatic systems.

Beyond that, you’ll want a strongly built and not-too-rusty chassis. The batteries are heavy. Many newer riding mowers have little metal in the frame and probably would not last long carrying the extra weight.

eddie
8/3/2015 12:15:59 PM

Eddie Converting to battery power is a great idea for a garden tractor I converted one 15yrs ago and it is still cutting grass on a daily basis, I have had to renew the batteries every 7 yrs I am just on my 3rd set now, my design will cut up to 2 acres on a 50cent charge there are no belts or pulleys and no oil on the entire tractor, it can pull a trailer for about 8hrs on a charge, because battery run time is the most important aspect of most conversions I paid particular attention to the most efficient design I could up with, I used 3 separate small motors one for the drive with electronic speed control and two smaller with a cutter blade mounted on the shaft for each cutter, this design only uses the battery power req to do the job, very little wasted battery power, it uses magnetic breaking of both tractor and cutter blades and automatically applies parking brake when you stop or get off the seat. Brian Edmond, Edmond Electric Website: Electrictractor.net


jim garvey_1
1/10/2010 9:47:31 AM

My buddy just got an OLD tractor last summer as payment for a job he did and was talking about scrapping it due to age and the engine was shot. I will see if he still has it and go from there. All the conversion projects I'd tried or thought about this one is a forehead slapper!


jim smith_2
7/23/2009 8:32:56 PM

I LIKE THE TRACTOR WITH ELECTRIC. But if he had a electic golfcart why take it apart to make the tractor. I would have just mounted the blade on the front of the golfcart.Then he could have mounted a mower deck on under the cart. he could us a starter motor to run the mowerdeck. That would also give him two seats and a place to put a bed on back to carry the chainsaw,axe,wedge,hammer,fuel and the dog and kids. That could be done for less than the cost of the tractor mod.


vernon benoit
1/21/2009 8:21:10 AM

I REALLY APPRECIATE ALL YOUR DO IT YOURSELF PROGRAMS THEY ARE VERY HELPFUL THANK YOU.P.S. PLEASE LEAVE PEOPLES PICTURES OUT OF THE INFORMATION I FIND IT NOT OF ANY USEFULNESS.






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