Texas Engineers are working with John Deere to develop technologies to electrify agriculture vehicles like tractors.

A new project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy aims to develop a mobile, rapid charging delivery mechanism for remotely located, off-road electric vehicles used in farming and construction operations. It must be able to charge multiple vehicles quickly, with the ability for them to run for at least 10 hours a day.

This will be a challenging task, given the remote nature of these machines, the difficult terrain they traverse and the power and energy demands. Today, a rugged high-power mobile fast charger does not exist, per the researchers.

A trio of UT battery experts are part of the $2.25 million project led by John Deere: Alex Huang, an expert in power electronics and professor in the Chandra Family of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Venkat Subramanian, expert in battery management systems and professor in the Walker Department of Mechanical engineering; and electrical and computing associate professor Hao Zhu, an expert in electric power systems.

John Deere engineering team expects that this project will accelerate charger technology development activities in Deere & Company to support off-road EV charging ecosystem.

The UT experts will be tasked with several key aspects of the project:

  • Advanced magnetic components for the mobile fast charger.
  • Work with John Deere’s team in realization of a high-power, mobile, fast charger based on advanced SiC inverter technology and fractional power processing.
  • Build a physics-based model of lithium-ion cells for battery pack and model deployment in advanced algorithms for the battery management system.
  • Develop an energy management system for distributed energy resources and model deployment that also predicts changes in energy costs.

The University of Texas at Austin has a long history of battery innovation, and the UT Battery Research Group is a multidisciplinary group of faculty and researchers who span every aspect of battery innovation — from developing new materials and testing battery safety to integrating with the grid and finding storage solutions. Through impactful collaborations with industry partners such as John Deere, UT seeks to translate research into next generation technologies that have a positive impact in our society.