The following article by Mark
describes the very interesting and functional electric tractor and mower series
that was offered by GE for a number of years. Thanks very much to Mark for
Imagine mowing a two-acre yard and not having to add a drop of fuel or check
the oil before you start or after you are done. Imagine as you back the
tractor out of the garage there is no loud combustion noise from the motor
or smelly exhaust. Then imagine after mowing the lawn you drive the tractor
back into the garage, plug a cord into an outlet, set a timer, and walk
away. This is all possible with a, not so widely known about, battery
powered tractor built by General Electric (G.E). This tractor requires no
gasoline, oil changes, air filters, or spark plugs. And it costs about 40
cents to operate for an hour and a half. Now that I have your interests
peaked ...... G.E. stopped building this product around thirty years ago.
Avco New Idea EGT-20. Produced in 1973 & 1974. Traction motor peak
torque exceeds 12 hp.
Three gear ranges, three speed ranges (9 forward speeds).
42 inch mid-mount with three 3/4 hp direct drive blades. Weight 795 lbs.
Some three years ago, I was reading though one of my newly acquired
back-issues of HomePower, when I turned to an article about the G.E. battery
powered lawn tractors. Like most people, I never had heard about them. I
was so intrigued that I ran and showed it to my wife. I was hooked and
started searching the internet right away for any information I could find.
I was surprised to learn a few other companies had sold electric
riding lawnmowers as well.
The majority of the electric lawn tractors were built by General Electric (G.E.)
in the 70's. G.E. marketed them as the Elec-Trak. It is believed G.E. first
intended to build mowers to be used at golf courses and then moved into
production for homeowners. In addition to the Elec-Trak brand, the same
basic design and components were used by AVCO New Idea and Wheel Horse who
then painted, assembled, and marketed them under the New Idea and Wheel
Horse brands. Sometime in the 70's, G.E. sold out to Wheel Horse
who continued to build and sell them under the Wheel Horse brand until
1983. Other manufacturers built battery riders but never developed them to
the extent as G.E. John Deere sold two small frame battery riders (the 90
and the 95). Cub Cadet sold one version of a small rider (the 95). Sears
and J.C. Penny's each had a model.
G.E. sold an impressive line of machines with the drive motors' peak torque
ranges exceeding 8 to 16 hp. Each tractor (large frame) and rider (small
frame) had a traction motor and separate motors for each mower-deck blade.
All of the battery powered tractors and riders, that I am aware of, were 36
volt dc. The large frame and few of the small frame models used six 6-volt
deep cycle batteries. Most of the small riders, sold by the various
manufacturers, used three 12-volt heavy duty batteries.
There were many attachments for the large frame models including a
front-mount mower deck, 3-gang reel mower, roto-tiller, snow thrower, cart,
lawn sweeper, push blade, sickle-mower, forklift, and front-end loader.
They also had a hedge trimmer, drill, edger, cultivator, welder, and a 36
volt dc to 110 inverter that plugged directly into the tractor. Many other
accessories were available like a radio, snow cab, golf club bag holder,
Click on pictures to enlarge
General Electric E12-M Elec-Trak.
General Electric E12 Elec-Trak w/42" front mount deck.
General Electric E10m Elec-Trak (small frame). 36" deck.
Battery pack is 6 6-volt deep cycle batteries.
Avco New Idea R-36. Produced in 1975. 36" deck.
Battery pack is 3 12-volt H.D. batteries.
The drives on the large frame models were belt driven Peerless transaxles
that did not have a mechanical reverse. Reverse was by reversing the
current by means of a switch which changed the direction of the motor
rotation. The small frame models had belt/clutch mechanisms and mechanical
reverses. Each deck blade, having its own motor, was direct drive. The
largest G.E. model weighs 900 lbs with batteries and has a maximum speed of
Avco New Idea EGT-120 again.
I have and am currently using two different models. My main mower is a
mid-mount New Idea. It has a 42" deck and will mow my two-acre yard using
about a 25% of the battery storage capacity. The other, a G.E., has an
electric tiller attachment mounted on the rear and a push blade mounted on
the front as a counter weight for the tiller and to push snow off of the
driveway. Its not much to look at but is a real work horse.
General Electric E20 Elec-Trak.
Traction motor peak torque exceeds 16hp.
Four gear ranges, eight speed ranges (32 forward speeds).
Electric tiller attachment.
Raises and lowers with an electric lift.
It does take some effort or luck to locate one. About a dozen or so a year
can be found on ebay. The prices generally range between $250 - $1,250.
Finding one nearby is the trick unless you are willing to pay a shipping
company or can make a trip in order to retrieve it. They seem to be
concentrated in the northeast (Iowa, Illinois, Michigan) although sparsely
located other places. I have heard of several people who were able to
locate a brand new machine at former dealers who had left over stock they
were unable to sell. It is generally thought that about 33,000 units where
built. G.E. has no remaining records on the Elect-Trak.
Production stopped almost thirty years ago, so many of the mowers if
they are still around have been left out by a fence-row or way back in a
shed. Often times the owners did not want to invest in a new battery
pack and abandoned its use. If the old batteries were not removed, they
would freeze and pour acid out to eat away at the metal sides of the
battery boxes. So, corrosion around the base of the rear & front
battery compartments is not uncommon. Mice will usually have found a
home in with the wiring and components. Most of the machines can be
repaired and brought back into service with some effort if they were
stored under cover. The machines which have been left outside for 20
years are usually too far gone to make repairing them feasible. They
can become valuable part donors as many of the components are
Click on pictures to enlarge
Rear battery box arrangement (large frame).
Front battery box arrangement (large frame).
Traction motor on the EGT-120.
Deck motor. Each blade is directly driven.
Mid-mount deck arrangement.
Hand-throttle on the EGT-120.
Controls speeds and switches to reverse.
I found my first Elec-Trak by visiting all the local mower repair shops.
Most had never heard of, much less seen, a battery powered riding mower.
One was finally located after talking to mechanic that had seen one in a
nearby town. He remembered the owner's name. I tracked the person down but
he had sold his years before. He gave me another name of someone in a
different town. I found that person and purchased it after bugging him for
about two months. I have since bought mowers form Ohio, Iowa, and Georgia.
These machines have proven themselves to be robust and durable. Some owners
have stripped their mowers down and then restored them. Some upgrade to
modern electronics. Most folks just use them in pretty much the condition
they were found. Some new old stock parts are still available. A potential
owner should have at least a basic understanding of electric concepts, be
able to use a volt meter, spend some time researching the proper care and
maintenance of batteries, have some mechanical ability, and a spouse who is
tolerant of the time and money invested. With proper care, new motor
brushes and bearings, and an occasional patch job, the mower should still be
running in another thirty years. The engineers at G.E. did good.
If one wishes to do so, these mowers can be recharged using sustainable
resources. A number of people are recharging their battery packs using
solar panels. I have several wind turbines I hope to use at some point for
recharging. Even if the batteries are recharged from the power grid, the
operation of the battery mower is far less polluting overall than their
internal combustion counterpart. I know of two different people in two
different states that are starting limited lawn services based on zero
carbon emissions. The battery pack is also a good backup power supply in
case of a power loss. You can easily attach an inverter and convert the DC
current to AC in an emergency. We were without power for six days last
winter because of an ice storm. A small inverter and the battery pack ended
up being more reliable than the gas generator.
There is a web based owner's club that is a repository of the tech manuals,
sales literature, and forums for people looking for assistance in fixing,
repairing, buying, & selling. The members are a great community of folks
who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with anyone who
asks. This technical support is a great resource as G.E. no longer provides
it. You do not have to be an owner to join. Visitors have limited access.
The web address is
I have enjoyed using these mowers and have not had to buy any gas to mow for
two years now. It is truly a unique experience working with these
machines. I found them to be very capable of doing the job. In fact, I
sold my gas tractor shortly after locating my first Elec-Trak. I often mow
late into the evening when it is cool without disturbing the neighbors. I
used the tiller attachment for the first time this fall. It did such a
great job I will try and sell my gas tiller in the spring. The battery packs
will last between 5 to 10 years depending on the quality of the battery, the
number of and depth of discharges, and how well they are maintained.
Considering the cost of petroleum is expected to continue to rise and with
the increasing concerns about global warming, the overall cost of acquiring,
repairing and running the machines makes them a good investment.
Mark is happy to answer email
questions at: mfrerking AT classicnet DOT net (replace AT with @ and DOT with a
Dec 9, 2007