Tipping points sometimes occur long before their true impact can be totaled, and the recent introduction of MTZ’s new-to-North America diesel-electric farm tractor could rank in that category — especially since the competitively-priced machine will be available for sale in the last quarter of 2018.

Over the past 15 years there have been prototypes of all-electric farm tractors and even one-off models of “locomotive-type” diesel electric tractors, but by autumn, U.S. and Canadian farmers will be able to buy a 26,400-pound, 360 horsepower diesel-electric tractor they can immediately put in their fields for between $298,000 and $350,000 depending upon various options. 

The nearest machine like it at work every day in North America is Caterpillar’s D7E dozer, a $700,000 tool that’s been available for nearly a decade.

Arie Prilik, vice president of sales and marketing for MTZ Equipment Ltd., says the upcoming MTZ 3622, is very similar to an MTZ model that was awarded the Silver Medal at the 2009 Agritechnica, and which the company has been selling to Eastern European farmers for the past 5 years.

“We have proven technology and competitive pricing in a machine that can go to work immediately,” he explains. “While diesel-electric rail locomotives have been operational for more than 70 years, the MTZ 3622 with its diesel engine, is designed to take advantage of whatever power source the market provides in the future.

“We think electric motors are the way to go, and what powers them can be diesel engines, hydrogen engines or fuel cells, or batteries charged by whatever the grid is using. Right now, batteries are not economically viable,” he explains. “Our tractor uses diesel power, but it is ready to accept whatever power source is available in the future.”

The new North American machines, built in Minsk, Belarus, will be powered with either a QSL9 Cummins 360 horsepower diesel, or an OM 470 Mercedes rated at 373 horsepower. Both engines are Tier 4 Final emission compliant, and because of the efficiencies of the electro-mechanical transmission, they will burn about 15% less fuel per acre than a conventional tractor with a CVT transmission.

“Our tractor uses diesel power, but it is ready to accept whatever power source is available in the future…”

The diesel-electric combination provides a wide, 87% efficient power band from 500-3,500 rpm, and the continuously variable power from the electric motor provides speeds in two ranges from a “creeper” 0.1 mph to 32 mph no-load road speed through planetary final drive gears.

The power train behaves very much like a traditional CVT transmission, and features simple control pedals for the accelerator, brake and cruise control, Prilik explains, noting the electro-mechanical transmission is designed to be maintenance free for 30,000 hours.

In addition, a 270-kilowatt AC electric power station is available on the MTZ 3622 to provide power for electrically-driven implements and attachments.

Prilik says electric power promises to revolutionize the way implements are built.

“Take an air seeder. If you replace the many hydraulic lines and motors with cheap, widely-available electric motors (which are rated to run up to 200,000 hours) and one power extender you would eliminate much of the maintenance and down time of the hydraulic system as well as the weight, mess and heat associated with such designs,” he explains. “An electric air seeder might require 30-40 kW to operate, but with our 270 kW power station, there’s plenty of reserve.”

Prilik says mobile AC power also could be used in applications such as on-the-go feed grinders, temporary irrigation or drainage pumping requirements, or emergency farm power.

The MTZ features a 233 horsepower, 1,000 rpm PTO in the rear and an optional 73 horsepower electric drive PTO up front. Hydraulics flow at 53 gpm to give an 11,000 pounds optional front 3-point lift capacity and 22,000 pounds in the rear.

The new tractor is available with Trimble GPS auto-steer and a Windows-based, owner-owned service diagnostics system.

Prilik says at first the machines will be available through a dozen or more MTZ dealers in the U.S. and Canada.

“We know we’re limited with our small dealer network in North America, so we’re actively looking for help from other dealers who may be interested in participating,” he says.