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. 


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)