Hybrid Electric Tractor Energy - Saving Configuration Conversion

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $14,957.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Pigeon River Farm
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Robert Braun
Pigeon River Farm


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use, solar energy

    Proposal summary:

    Due to the increasingly high cost of new tractors, most small farms simply cannot afford new tractors. Most small farms rely on older petroleum-fueled utility tractors with poor fuel efficiency. This places most small farms at the mercy of petroleum fuel prices to maintain economic sustainability. Unfortunately, older petroleum-fueled utility tractors also usually represent a high carbon footprint and require ongoing maintenance with heavy use.   

    New electric farm tractors can cost 20-35% more than comparable diesel or gas tractors. Although affordable full-electric drive tractor conversion options are available, these conversions generally limit a tractor to light-duty and/or short-lived tasks. Most farmers will ultimately be forced to revert to their time-tested petroleum-fueled tractors to complete many tasks on the farm.

    No options are currently available for an affordable, versatile hybrid dual-fuel tractor conversion that will allow a tractor to perform all the necessary tasks on the farm.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Farmall M Tractor That Will be Used for the Project

    A hybrid dual-fuel tractor conversion will ultimately boost economic farm sustainability through petroleum fuel reduction. This is especially if on-farm solar power is available. A hybrid dual-fuel tractor conversion will ultimately boost ecological sustainability through carbon emissions reduction, and social sustainability through a public perception of responsible environmental stewardship.

    While the maximum efficiency of an internal combustion engine running on petroleum fuel is around 33%, direct-drive electric motors average around 90% efficiency. Much like a hybrid electric car, a dual-fueled tractor will give the farmer the benefits, range, and power of both electric and petroleum fuels. The conversion will also include on-board electrical regeneration features.

    The on-board technology provided by the conversion will primarily utilize electric power, and it will automatically engage gasoline power when needed to meet power demands for specific tasks.  The system components and software will be fine-tuned during the 1-year testing period to provide optimal results.

    1. An initial benchmark will be determined by measuring fuel consumption of the test tractor “Farmall M” in actual service on the farm. All tasks will be recorded daily.
    2. Necessary equipment will be ordered.
    3. The test tractor “Farmall M” will be taken out of service to begin the conversion. Each step of the conversion process will be recorded with video footage. An open house will be scheduled once each month during the project build so interested farmers can see the progress on the buildout of the system.
    4. Video and still photos will be posted online during every step of the project on YouTube, Facebook, and other online venues.
    5. When the prototype is built, the hybrid tractor utility and fuel consumption will be tested and recorded in common on-farm applications over the course of 1 year. In addition to traditional local farming community promotional channels, live events on Facebook and YouTube are planned to show the hybrid system in action in all seasons throughout the year. Live videos will highlight each project milestone and each new task such as cutting hay, moving wagon, etc., and important system hardware or software information.
    6. A field day will be held at Pigeon River Farm to share the full project details with the local farming community and provide a live demonstration of the prototype tractor.
    7. Live demonstrations of the prototype tractor will be presented at the annual MREA Conference and at the Annual Central Wisconsin Tractor Show. In addition, classroom presentations and live demonstrations will be offered to Marion High School FFA and the Fox Valley Technical College Agriculture Program.
    8. The project will provide video data and print reporting on the full details of conversion process and comprehensive project results will be produced that may be used for further outreach and tutorials.

    Project Objectives:

    1. Establish benchmarks by measuring gasoline consumption of test tractor in common farm usage.
    2. Modify Farmall M tractor with a hybrid gasoline / electric dual fuel drive system.
    3. Test and record hybrid tractor utility and fuel consumption in common on-farm applications over the course of 1 year.
    4. Provide ongoing outreach activities to the local farming community throughout the course of the project.
    5. Provide video data and print reporting on conversion process and project results that may be used for outreach and future tutorials.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.