Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Search Results

The Electric Tractor

tractor_logoWant to rid yourself of the gasoline and oil in the typical lawn mower and garden tractor. Think electric. Quiet, solar chargeable, and reduced maintenance (no ethanol gasoline issues), here is a better way to mow your lawn!

The GE Elec-Trak was the first commercially produced all-electric garden tractor, made mostly between 1969 and 1975. Despite their limited production and availability, many Elec-Traks are still in use today, and have a cult following among tractor and electric vehicle enthusiasts. They are an archetypal or seminal design that has influenced all later electric tractors.

The Electric Tractor Store is a trade name of Free Range Eelctric, LLC, a Limited Liability Company registered with the Secretary of State of Virginia. Our goal is to increase the use of existing electric garden tractors and promote the introduction of new garden and small farm sized electric tractors. We hope having a steady supply of parts will encourage more people to keep their old machines in use and save them from the scrap yard.

The Electric Tractor Store was started as the on-line store-front of Punsit Creek Designs, LLC which was founded by Jim Coate in 2006 to provide electric vehicle and other services in Spencertown, New York. Jim has been a long-time electric vehicle and renewable energy promoter. Some of his personal projects may be seen at; he has presented various workshops including many at the NOFA summer conferences.

Initially, The Electric Tractor Store focused on providing parts for the GE, Wheelhorse, and New Idea “Elec-Trak” models from NOS and aftermarket sources. In 2008, the Elec-Trak parts business of Bill Gunn of Technical Services was acquired. This included all the original drawings and supplier information which greatly enhances our ability to provide new parts for years to come.

In 2010, The Electric Tractor Store moved to Waynesboro, Virginia, becoming part of Free Range Electric, LLC. Free Range Electric serves various electric vehicle needs, while The Electric Tractor Store continues to grow. During 2010, The Electric Tractor Store became a dealer for the WhisperMow electric lawn tractor.

On Facebook!


Electric Vehicles: Designing or Converting?

I ride a electric hybrid bike. I can pedal, cruise electric only, or just use the electric to assist me on hills. I’ve driven electric utility carts, golf carts, and ridden Segway’s. Electric vehicles are fun, cheap to run, and much simpler to fix than their engined counterparts, as well as being very quiet and clean to operate, with little to no chemicals on site like oil, fuel, and emissions.

If you want a electric vehicle, other than buying a expensive commercial version, you can either design one from scratch, or convert an existing one. Conversion looks like the simpler method, but then you get all the design compromises of the original vehicle along with it. Designing from scratch means you get a vehicle that meets your specific need (assuming you were able to resolve what that specific need is).

For designing a vehicle, we use Electric Vehicles: Design and Build Your Own. For anything from a 2 wheel electric bike to a 4 wheel cargo truck or electric speedster, including hybrids, this is the one you want. You learn about suspensions, steering, drivetrain and instrumentation issues. It’s a dated work, but the basics are still applicable, and can easily be updated with today’s technology. A great spot to introduce Arduino microcontrollers.

For converting an existing vehicle to electric, my favorite is Convert It!. I have a ’94 For Ranger that is begging for a conversion.

This book is the leading how-to resource for electric car conversions. It combines Brown’s years of professional automotive experience with down-to-earth language even an automotive beginner can understand. It is not written for the engineer in the laboratory, but for the home mechanic building his own car, and for the average person behind the wheel.

Brown speaks to the reader as if talking to a friend in his garage. Before lifting a wrench, Brown answers the most frequently asked questions about electric cars: how fast will it go, how far will it go, how long will the batteries last, how pollution-free is it really, and many more.

The conversion process itself begins with choosing an appropriate donor chassis, and stripping it of internal combustion components. Here Brown’s experience provide numerous tips and tricks to make the later conversion process easier and more successful. Step by step, Brown leads the reader through the conversion. As each component comes up, Brown gives a little background on the different types available, and the pros and cons of each. He includes tips on layout, design and fabrication at each step, and discusses different approaches for different chassis, such as front wheel drive vs. rear wheel drive. By the end of the book, every part of the conversion process has been discussed. Brown wraps up with a procedure for testing and troubleshooting, and guidelines for normal driving, charging, and maintenance.

The book is salted heavily throughout with photos and diagrams to illustrate its topics, and it includes a very thorough index. CONVERT IT has been chosen by the Department of Energy and by numerous schools across the country as the textbook for high school electric car conversion projects.

Discuss electric vehicle construction and conversion at


Saving Energy with Lighting

We all know that fluorescent lights use less electricity than incandescent lights, and are a good way to save big on the electric bill.

The big thing in the news though is the mercury content of fluorescent lights, and the fact that the T12 fluorescent tubes are being phased out.

Well, there is some good news! CFL’s & T5 Tubes have 1/10th the mercury content of the T12 tubes (3mg vs. 30mg), and the T5 tubes are more efficient than the T12’s (100 vs. 60 lumens / Watt.

According to the EPA, fluorescents reduce mercury emissions over incandescents, even though they contain minute amounts of mercury, because most mercury emissions (51%) come from coal fired power plants (57% of the USA’s Electric), and fluorescents drop power consumption enough to more than compensate for their own emissions if broken (there’s no mercury emissions if intact).

I recently received the following and thought I’d share:

LUXADD introduces the Express T5 Retrofit Kit Series: Greener, more efficient fluorescent lighting saves up to 73% on energy costs

Lighting is the single largest user of electricity in schools, hospitals, office and other commercial (retail and service) buildings

(Miami, Florida) – Lighting is the single largest user of electricity in the U.S. New, patented technology from LUXADD allows for easy retrofitting of older, less efficient fluorescent lighting systems to T5, the leader in energy efficiency and lighting quality. The T5 saves up to 73% on lighting energy and reduces a company’s carbon footprint up to 60% with just one simple “SNAP” – like changing a light bulb.

The Lighting Technology for all commercial and residential applications in the U.S. and Canada

LUXADD’S Express T5 Retrofit Kit for T12 & T8 pays for itself with labor and energy savings within one year – and then continues to reduce lighting energy bills for building by up to 73% every year and a/c energy up to 15%. LUXADD offers the only linear fluorescent lighting conversion adapter specifically designed for the US and Canadian market. It is designed for all residential and commercial applications. LUXADDT is “Made in the USA” in effort to create new “green” jobs, promote a sustainable supply chain and ensure quality control.

The Need for Energy Efficiency

Rising energy costs directly impact all buildings in the U.S. Retail and service buildings in the U.S. use 149 billion kWh (or 508 trillion Btu) of site electricity (electricity consumed within the building) each year. This electricity is used for a variety of different purposes, the most being used for lighting (59%).

The majority of this electricity is used for lighting and office equipment (24%) (such as computers, printers, faxes and photocopiers). Both lighting and office equipment produce heat, requiring more air conditioning – another electricity end use – to cool the buildings.

The following percentage of electricity used simply to light different types of buildings includes:

Retail and Service: 59%

Education: 56%

Office: 44%

Health Care: 44%

Food Service: 30%

T12 phase out by the Department of Energy starting in July 2012

Most of the standard fluorescent lights in millions of buildings will need to be replaced starting in July 2012. The Department of Energy (DOE) regulations will eliminate the most common T12 tubes. It is estimated that the replacement of 500 million T12 tubes would produce an annual saving of $10 Billion in electricity costs nationwide. LUXADD is the only U.S. manufacturer of the new Express T5 Retrofit Kit Series to meet new Federal law mandating replacement of standard T12 (and elective replacement of T8 fluorescent light tubes to save up to 73% in lighting energy costs).

One-Year, Rapid ROI

LUXADD can instantly improve lighting energy efficiency and also save on air conditioning electricity costs used to cool the building due to heat produced by old-technology fluorescent lighting. The overall energy savings with LUXADD are up to 80%.

Made in the USA

LUXADD is a leading lighting solution provider based in Miami, FL and is comprised of experts dedicated to developing new technologies that improve energy efficiency in lighting, the single largest consumer of electricity worldwide. The U.S. Department of Energy’s fluorescent lighting made official that most of the T12 lamps will be phased out of production starting July 2012. Current lighting systems consisting of T12 fixtures with magnetic ballast will be retrofitted to modern T5 lamp technology with electronic ballast over time.

Environmental concerns, escalating energy costs and highly competitive economic conditions have created strong demand for energy efficient products that will help to conserve energy, save money and promote a healthy environment. LUXADD meets this need with products that dramatically reduce electricity consumption instantly while producing higher quality light. LUXADD is a registered trademark and the conversion adapter – the LUXADD Express T5 Retrofit Kit series is a patented technology. The company’s products are in compliance with the LEED and NAHB green building standards.

# # #


Top 5.1 Things You Don’t Know About the Electric Car (But Should)

In a (layman’s) nutshell…Rechargeable batteries provide electricity to a controller, which powers a motor, which, in turn, spins the wheels. Yup, that’s it. Instead of filling up with gas, batteries are “filled up” with electricity. Recharging can be done by plugging into a normal 120- or 240-volt electrical outlet and takes anywhere from 4–10 hours.

Though driving range might vary depending on the type of vehicle and batteries, most EVs can go 80–100 miles on a single charge. And while that’s not sufficient for a Thelma & Louise-type adventure, for the general population, it’s plenty of power to get to work and home again with a few errands in between. Plus, similar to fuel-powered cars, the way you drive an electric car can affect battery efficiency.

Because there are 3 different categories of electric cars – Highway Capable, 3-wheeled “motorcycles,” and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) – safety standards vary somewhat. Low-speed NEVs and 3-wheeled vehicles are currently subject to different requirements, but all highway-capable electric vehicles are regulated by the same standards as gas-powered vehicles. And in fact, in March of this year, 41 countries met in Geneva and agreed on international safety standards for fully electric vehicles.

Until recently, the Tesla Roadster was one of the few highway-worthy EVs on the market. And at $110K a pop, it was about as accessible as a NASA space shuttle. But with the Chevy Volt expected to hit showrooms later this year at the high end of $30K, and the Nissan LEAF scheduled for a December release at around $28–35K, electric cars are becoming more and more affordable.

Subtract from these prices the $7,500 federal tax credit you’ll get if you buy an electric car before the end of 2011, and the odds of being able to afford an EV in the near future jump from out-of-this-world to pretty-darn-good. And that’s without mentioning how much you can save on gas and maintenance.

Electrical vehicles are 100% emission-free and 97% cleaner than gas-powered vehicles. According to Scientific, the cost of charging an electric vehicle is equivalent to paying 75 cents per gallon in gas. Over the life of a vehicle, the total “fuel” savings are likely to be thousands of dollars. They’re also 3 times as efficient. It all adds up to a happier, richer you and a happier, richer planet.

Source: Esurance


USPS Going Electric


This isn’t the first time the USPS has played with electric vehicles, but never before has there been this size of a commitment:

With consumers largely avoiding electric cars due to their shortcomings (range, charging infrastructure) the United States Postal Service is already undertaking the electrification of their current Long Life Vehicle (LLV) model to contribute to the green movement. AM General and Smith Electric Vehicles (SEV) will be teaming up to complete this project in converting all 178,000 LLVs currently in use.


Generating Electricity From Heat

A Thermal Electric Generator, these devices produce electricity when heat is applied (the Seebeck principle). They usually are very inefficient, but can be practical in some applications. There’s the thermocouple, which is twisted wires of dissimilar metals, or the solid state type unit known as a Peltier module. This effect is reversible, generating heat and cold when electricity is applied. See the following resources:


Can Thermoelectrics Replace a Vehicle Alternator?

thermoelectric exhaustBorla®, the pioneer and leading manufacturer of stainless-steel performance exhaust systems and Alphabet Energy, the global leader in thermoelectrics for waste heat recovery, announced today a nonexclusive partnership to deliver the industry’s first aftermarket thermoelectric fuel-efficiency product for vehicle internal combustion engines.

Sixty percent of the energy from fuel used in cars and trucks escapes through the exhaust tailpipe as waste heat. Borla’s technologically-advanced exhaust systems coupled with Alphabet Energy’s PowerModule™ thermoelectric generator has the potential to capture 5 to 10 percent of a car or truck’s waste heat and use it to improve fuel efficiency by reducing alternator loads or replacing the alternator entirely. This captured heat can be used to power the multitude of electrical components on a modern car normally powered by the energy-hungry alternator, such as lights, heating, air conditioning, sound, and navigation systems.”

“Our customers count on us to deliver the highest quality exhaust products while also helping them manage their most pressing challenges for the Class 8 truck fleet operator, and that’s fuel efficiency,” said Alex Borla, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Borla. “As we expand into new markets, it’s our vision to combine Borla’s state-of-the-art exhaust and filtration technologies with thermoelectrics, and Alphabet Energy is the ideal partner to fulfill this vision.”

According to the US Department of Energy, a Class 8 truck traveling 150,000 – 200,000 miles per year averages $70,000 – $125,000 in fuel costs. For many, the lifetime fuel costs for a Class 8 truck are approximately five times the original purchase price of the vehicle. Heat captured by a Borla Exhaust and delivered to an Alphabet Energy’s PowerModule™ could deliver a fuel savings of 3 to 6 percent or as much as $7,500 per year, per Class 8 truck.

“Alphabet Energy is committed to transforming waste heat into value for our customers and partners,” said Dr. Matthew Scullin, Founder and CEO of Alphabet Energy. “Borla’s passion for innovation and design parallels our own and we’re excited to partner with them on the future of heavy-duty trucking exhausts and fuel efficiency improvements.”

Alphabet Energy’s PowerModules™ will undergo testing on both gasoline and diesel truck exhausts at Borla’s state-of-the-art research and development centers in Oxnard, Calif. and Johnson City, Tenn. Based on positive results from the testing, the two companies intend to co-develop and commercialize the next-generation Borla Exhaust for trucks and other mobile and stationary internal combustion engines with Alphabet Energy PowerModules™.


Electric Lawn Tractors

A reader on our 12v group brought up this topic, and it started the idea engine. There were a few models available in the past, of lawn and garden tractors, that used electric motors instead of fuel driven engines. Quieter, easier on the environment and your lungs, and arguably, on your wallet, it’s apparent that they are attempting a comeback. Appropriate on a off-grid homestead like ours, we are researching the availability, and possibility of converting our Sears mower to electric. See the following resources:

Please let me know if you find more of these units available or even DIY conversions.



A Torqeedo-powered electric boat won the 9th annual Wye Island Challenge, an electric-only boat race held in St. Michaels, Maryland, on October 2. Captain Todd Sims, owner of EPower Marine in Boynton Beach, Florida, piloted his 23′ Calypso Launch to victory with an average speed of 6.5 mph. The 24-mile course extended from the Miles River Yacht Club, across the Chesapeake Bay and around Wye Island. Winds averaged 15-20 mph, while 3′ breakers stirred in the open water.

“The first leg of the course was straight into the wind and waves, but the Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 electric outboard pushed the boat through the weather like a tractor,” said Captain Sims. “This kind of race demonstrates the viability of electric propulsion in real-world conditions. I couldn’t be more pleased with the performance of the boat and motor.”

“These are all off-the-shelf parts available to anyone. The Cruise 4.0 has this kind of power right out of the box,” continued Captain Sims.

With thrust equivalent to a 9.9 hp gas outboard, the Cruise 4.0 R achieves an efficiency of more than 50%. It operates on a 48V lead-gel, AGM battery bank or two high-performance lithium manganese batteries from Torqeedo’s Power series.

Founded in 2005, Torqeedo’s high-tech outboards have won numerous awards. Environmentally-sound, they offer unrivalled strength and efficiency for superior range.

EPower Marine specializes in electric propulsion solutions for the marine industry. Located in South Florida, EPower Marine is a sales and service dealer for system components, turnkey packages and purpose-built electric boats. Recreational users and commercial fleet operators have utilized EPower Marine’s expertise and broad vendor relationships to design, source and deliver the best electric propulsion systems available. Captain Todd Sims can be reached at 561-613-2737 or for more information.

Contact Torqeedo Inc., 171 Erick Street Unit A-1, Crystal Lake, IL 60014. 815-444-8806; Fax: 815-444-8807.;


The non electric laundry press

Previously we exhibited our non electric bucket washer, today we are presenting the water press companion. This is a lot easier than a ringer, and easier on the clothes (and operator). We have loaded a video on Youtube, and a Instructable. Also see our previous post about the non electric washer. Enjoy:

Non Elelectric Laundry PressMore DIY How To Projects