April 12, 2021
Kubota aims to offer electrified tractors in the future. It is also researching the possibility of AI-controlled driverless tractors.
Kubota showcased a concept tractor last year featuring a sleek, futuristic design and advanced technologies the company may implement in the future. The exposition took place in Kyoto City, Japan and marked the 50 year anniversary of its first-ever concept car released at the Japan World Exposition held in Osaka, Japan in 1970.
Kubota is one of many manufacturers that has publicly announced its intentions to move toward electric vehicles. John Deere, Case IH and AGCO (Massey Ferguson, Fendt and Challenger) have announced similar strategies. Electric tractors will offer their owners many advantages: cleaner emissions, lower parts and maintenance costs, quieter operation, and more power.
The popularity of electric cars such as Tesla in the automotive category has set off a race to electrification across other industries such as off-highway vehicles and aerospace. The global auto industry will transform dramatically between 2020 and 2030 as auto manufacturers retool factories for electric motors. There is a good chance we will see similar trends in off-highway equipment over the next couple of decades as well.
Kubota also announced that its concept tractor will feature artificial intelligence — a computer will drive and control the tractor functions. This is a step-change and could represent a large productivity increase for the industry to the extent it is implemented in the future.
Tractors could reverse the decades-long trend of becoming bigger and more powerful (so one person can do more in one tractor) in exchange for a fleet of smaller, more nimble driverless autonomous tractors. The move toward driverless autonomous unmanned aerial drones showed that planes became smaller as the need for pilots went away.
It is certainly an exciting time for technology and agriculture. We are seeing major changes that will transform the landscape as we know it over the coming decades. The costs associated with maintaining a diesel engine are higher than an electric motor because of all the moving parts and pieces. Kubota's tractor concept is a step forward and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.