It will take a long period of careful weighing and measuring before farmers give up on internal combustion. A core part of the rural landscape for more than 100 years, engines using the good old-fashioned combo of ‘fuel plus spark’ don’t change much if they work in the harsh farming environment — check and you’ll note that some quad and bike designs are pushing three decades. ‘Bulletproof’ is the mantra of the rural user. Reliability beats power and flair any day. Nevertheless, change is coming.
It may be here sooner than people realise, with the demand to cut costs, cut overheads, and cut maintenance always weighing on the savvy farmer’s mind. Electric vehicles are taking to the road in numbers, which seem to double year after year, and their engines have only one moving part. Their fuel source could very well come from the sun or a rushing stream, or the wind itself. Quiet electric power also helps when dealing with skittish livestock — what’s more, when it comes to side-by-side vehicles the future is already here.
Polaris has embraced the EV concept by adding another drivetrain option to their already popular Ranger series of side-by-sides. A single, 48-volt induction motor provides smooth power — 30hp in the old money — and is connected to the same reliable four-wheel drive system, which has made the Ranger a hit in rough terrain. The added bonus of relative silence in operation has made it popular with hunters in the American market, but it’s equally at home working in barns and around livestock — places where a diesel or petrol engine can cause a disturbance.
As more and more electric vehicles hit the road and charging options which don’t rely on the grid combines with more and more efficient battery tech to increase the range of this kind of machine, it will make more and more sense for farming operations to go electric. Other machines on the farm — including utes and tractors — may be in the prototype or niche stages of their evolution, but for a small, nimble runaround, the electric option is proving to be far more than just a ‘super golf cart’. If nothing else, the lack of parts and the robust nature of electric motors means that soon rural chores may be accomplished with the flick of a switch.