Thursday, December 5, 2019

RAMSES: The Electric Tractor is Alive and Well in Tehran

The RAMSES vehicle under development in Italy in 2011. In the photo, from the left, the developers: Toufic El Asmar, Paolo Pasquini, and Ugo Bardi.

Maybe you read my descriptions of the "RAMSES" electric tractor that I helped to develop some years ago with funding from the European Commission. It was an interesting project and the result was a practical multi-purpose vehicle for agricultural applications. It was not meant to be a heavy-duty tractor, it was something that could perform many different tasks, from transporting goods to spraying and irrigating. Above, you can see the vehicle in a photo of some years above. And you can read a complete description in a paper that we published in the "Journal of Cleaner Production" (authors U. Bardi. T. El Asmar and A. Lavacchi, vol. 19, pp. 2034-2048 - 203). See also a post on the Cassandra blog

So, I was very pleased last month when I saw a version of the same idea being developed in Teheran by Professor Hossein Mousazadeh at the faculty of Agricultural Engineering. Hossein had been working at the RAMSES project in Italy at the University of Florence and here is his brainchild, "RAMSES 2.0"

Below, another picture of the same tractor, driven by Hossein himself

In comparison with the Italian RAMSES, the Iranian version is similar. It uses lead batteries, too, for the lowest possible cost. But it has a few additional quirks: first of all, it is a hybrid vehicle that can recharge its batteries using a gas-powered, on-board engine. It can also recharge in an emergency using PV panels on top: Iran, just like Italy, is a sunny country. Note also the camera in front, the vehicle can be remote-controlled and it has a certain capability of autonomous motion. Apart from this, it follows the basic philosophy of what an electric agricultural vehicle should be: rugged, simple, as inexpensive as possible.

As you may have imagined, both the RAMSES and the Tehran tractor have remained at the stage of prototypes, so far. The market for electric vehicles seems to be moving from the top toward the bottom, with the great success of the Tesla cars so far not reaching the low-cost side of the transportation market. And, obviously, agriculture is a market where low-cost is a desperate necessity for cash-strapped farmers everywhere. It will take time before electrification reaches the agricultural world. But, eventually, even farmers will have to be weaned from their addiction to oil.

So we are moving slowly toward the energy transition. But, eventually, we'll get there!

Below, yours truly, Ugo Bardi, playing the farmer with the Iranian tractor. 

1 comment:

  1. I am a permaculturist doing management intensive grazing with multispecies goats, cattle, and dogs. This is done with a low stocking rate to be nature friendly. My fields are a polyculture of all kinds of plant species. Many are introduced and invasive from years of poor agricultural practices but some are native. This is multispecies with goats because of the brush, weeds, but also grasses with cows. Goats eat a wide spectrum of plant species and cattle specialize with grasses. Together they cover the polyculture plant spectrum I have. I wanted to get out of the chemical trap most Industrial grazing operations are in. I am not an economic farm meaning I am a hobby farm. Hobby is a poor word but it is what most small-scale farms are these days in much of the US. Hobby farm means I derive my income off the farm. The best I can do with this operation is cover many but not all costs. Industrial AG is required to cover all cost with some income for a grazing operation in my area. Permaculture that respects nature cannot do that reliably and make a living.

    I am also a green prepper with details of my life in my blog The reason I mention this blog is it is seeking low carbon capture both technical and with the kinds of capture used by our ancestors that involved being more in tune to the carbon, nutrient, and hydrologic cycles of the land. This then is further adapted with the multispecies addition of animals both as carbon capture devises for food and for work. My animals serve another purpose of being food for my prep portfolio along with long shelf life food, canned food, and frozen foods. I have a food bank on hooves. REAL Green is a hybridization of the old and new turbo charged with behavior. It is my opinion 100% renewable transition is impossible because of behavior and physics hence REAL Green.

    One of my efforts is going small scale with hay production. I am using an Italian Abriatta M60 mini baler. I am using this with a 30hp Kubota tractor now but I would very much like to also use a small electric tractor equivalent. I have a solar system for the house that is a hybrid on and off the grid set up with transfer switches much like a marine application. I am now planning the building a shop/barn that will have multiple panels that will be equipped with a transformerless Grid-tie Inverter by Sunny Boy. This will make my barn a power producer back to the grid but also a potential charging station for an electric tractor. The unfortunate issue these days is there is yet to be a mass produced small electric tractor in the 20-30hp range available to me. I am hoping something comes out of Europe where electric leadership is occurring.

    For my application I need a 30hp to run the hay cutting equipment. My Italian bailer will work on 20hp but to cut hay efficiently I need a 30hp. In my opinion having the capabilities of an electric tractor to drive small hay equipment is vital for permaculture application that seek resilience and sustainability to a decline process. I am a green prepper but also a REAL Green which means I am adapting to the status quo of the Anthropocene with Green strategies that are relatively green based. The relative part is incorporating technology and fossil fuels into the effort as is reasonable. I am attempting to go as far away from the status quo as I can but still be realistic in regards to what is economic. REAL Green strategies start with behavior that lives in a collapse process and goes forth to leverage the status quo world in building a monastery (relatively status quo detached) of efforts to prepare for net energy and planetary decline. The long story short is an electric tractor is a vital element of this permaculture effort to adapt to decline. It has yet to be introduced in my area but should be. The technology is there but the desire is not. It will of course likely need subsidies because economics are not there for very small applications.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)