Exclusive driving impression: Belarus 3023 prototype Eastern European firm Belarus sprang a surprise — and picked up a silver medal — at last year’s Agritechnica with an electrically powered, stepless-drive tractor. We tried two out of the only three working prototypes

Back in May, it rained when we travelled across to Minsk to drive Belarus’s new 3023. And when we went ploughing with it, the rain was still coming down. But if the weather put the dampeners on our pictures, it didn’t spoil our liking for this 300hp hybrid’s concept. The future may very well see electric power coming to tractors in a big way, though probably with diesel help for a start.

If a conventional engine is used not to power the wheels but to drive a generator, that can cut the tractor free from complicated mechanical drivelines. Individual wheel motors can push the outfit along while other motors look after the ancilliaries; losses in electrical drives are very low and a diesel engine can be set up to operate very efficiently in a narrow rpm band. Providing the power and torque needed for field operations calls for high voltages. In the Belarus 3023’s case we’re talking about 800V, which around farming’s wet and dirt needs to be handled with some care. But that’s not a thing to fret about, reckons Stanislav Florentsev; he’s the General Director of the Russian Ruselprom-Elektroprivod electrical engineering group that developed the concept.

“We have been dealing with 1,000V systems for mobile machinery in the mining industry for decades,” he points out, “And we’ve never had problems. Safety is of course the main priority; and in this context, 800V is controllable.” Suitably reassured we turned to MTZ’s Chief Engineer Ivan Ouss, who heads up the 3023 project. While he is wary of making promises, he’s totally convinced that electro-drive already delivers substantial improvements in fuel economy. “In making this tractor we’ve done away with about 40 gears and bearings, plus 20 shafts,” he explains. “Comparing its efficiency with a conventional tractor shows a reduced fuel consumption.” When we wondered if this might amount to a 10- 15% saving, he simply nodded.

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