Here’s what I found out in Texas about John Deere’s electric backhoe

I traveled to Austin to check out John Deere’s second-gen 310 X-Tier E-Power electric backhoe – here’s what I learned.

At 186 years old, John Deere is one of the oldest industrial companies in the US. It plans to deliver more than 20 construction and forestry electric and hybrid-electric models by 2026. It also says it’s going to deliver a fully autonomous, battery-powered electric agricultural tractor.

Deere’s prototype is one of the first electric backhoes in the US. Case Construction Equipment debuted the first fully electric backhoe loader, the Case 580 EV, in March 2020, and it’s on the market. (Case also debuted two new electric mini excavators at ConExpo 2023 last month that are also commercially available.)

In 2021, John Deere started to test and showcase the first-gen 310 X-Tier backhoe. And in December 2021, it acquired majority ownership of Kreisel Electric in Austria, which develops high-voltage battery systems with patented immersion cooling technology. The folks at John Deere assert that Kreisel’s batteries provide conventional batteries with 20% more life. Kreisel’s website states that its battery’s “unique low temperature spread (<1°C) throughout the module ensures that all cells are within the same temperature range, resulting in prolonged battery life and higher performance.”

Jon Gilbeck, John Deere’s global leader in marketing, strategy, and electrification, told me that there are “roughly three prototypes” of the second-gen 310 X-Tier E-Power electric backhoe being tested in the field; National Grid has been working with John Deere to test them since 2021.

Gilbeck said that the backhoe will be one of the first of the company’s EV machines that will commercialize before 2026.

I got to check out a backhoe prototype on John Deere’s test farm near Austin last week. We watched the hydraulic arm and the loading shovel in action next to a diesel backhoe performing the same actions.

The 310 X-Tier E-Power electric backhoe can do everything the diesel backhoe can do, but better –John Deere says it has 10-15% more performance. It’s quiet – it’s got a decibel level of 75 or less. Construction sites are dangerous, so noise reduction will reduce accidents as it will be easier for workers to communicate. It will cut noise pollution in urban areas and also, most importantly, slash emissions overall.

John Deere won’t yet provide the specs on its backhoe prototype, but it says it’s considering a 120 kW motor, equivalent to 100 hp diesel. The machine is in the 14-foot digging-depth category, like the 310 diesel series the company sells.

John Deere says its 310 X-Tier’s “run time” is an “8-12 hour day” without having to recharge.

The 310 X-Tier has two circuits and three motors for HVAC, propulsion, and hydraulic. It’s able to separate its transmission torque from hydraulic, and it doesn’t have torque ratings yet.

As for charging, John Deere says it’s going to offer both mobile and installed EV charging stations for construction sites. (We saw an example of its installed charger, but it wasn’t live.) The backhoe is also compatible with any EV charging station. We all laughed at the thought of a backhoe pulling up at, say, an Electrify America charging station next to a Chevy Bolt, but hey, cool.

I look forward to seeing what John Deere debuts in the next three years – and watching the company make the transition to electrification as rapidly as possible.

Read more: Here’s how John Deere’s electric robots can plant 6,600 seeds in 3 seconds

Main photo: John Deere; Embedded photos: Michelle Lewis

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