Remote-control Grass Cutter Operates Under 40cm-high Solar Mounting System (1)

2019/02/20 21:49
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo

The majority of conventional grass cutters used engines as power sources, and this applies not only to grass cutters at solar power plants. Nearly all of the generally used grass cutters, including machines that are supported by the shoulder and waist, riding-type machines and radio-controlled machines, use engines as power sources.

Grass cutters that use storage batteries instead of engines as power sources began to be introduced only recently. However, it is just that the power sources changed. Models that effectively utilize the advantages of using storage batteries are limited.

In such situation, models taking advantage of batteries began to be commercialized recently. One of them is a remote-control model commercialized by Sasaki Corp of Towada City, Aomori Prefecture, which manufactures agricultural machines and snow plows (Fig. 1, Video 1).

Fig. 1: Low vehicle height is one advantage of electric grass cutters. (source: Sasaki)

Video 1: Remote-control grass cutter used at solar power plant (source: Sasaki)

The biggest advantage of using a storage battery instead of an engine is that the machine is easier to handle for anyone. A certain level of knowledge is required to operate and control machines mounted with engines.

Farmers are accustomed to engine operation because they have experience in handling conventional agricultural machines. In other fields, however, the machines are handled by workers who are not accustomed to operating engines in many cases. Because of this, even if there are operations that need efficiency improvements by relying on machines, the barrier to machines powered by engines is high and such machines become popular only in a small number of fields. The barrier is lowered, however, by using storage batteries as power sources to improve operability.

The machine height can be lowered, which is another advantage. Grass cutter models that can travel under mounting systems at solar power plants can be designed more easily.

It is also easier to realize machines that can cope with slopes when storage batteries are used. Machines mounted with engines cannot be driven on slopes that are inclined more than a certain degree because of the mechanism to feed gasoline while machines mounted with storage batteries can be operated on steeper slopes.

Sasaki developed a remote-control grass cutter featuring advantages of motorization and released the machine naming it the "smamo."

1st electric snow plow in Japan

Sasaki successfully motorized snow plows, which became hot-selling products, prior to the grass cutters (Fig. 2). The snow plow is one of the company's core products. It was the first snow plow to use a storage battery in Japan.

Fig. 2 : The first electric snow plow in Japan (source: Sasaki)

The machine became easier to handle for all users universally following replacement of the engine with a storage battery, and the range of snow removal workers expanded. It is difficult for some women to handle engine-driven machines. Following motorization, the machines can now be handled easily just like home appliances.

The development of the snow plows powered by storage batteries started before the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. The company is based in Towada City and was not affected by the earthquake or the tsunami, but it suffered from power failure and one of its employees was hit by the tsunami.

After the earthquake, the company decided to add two new functions to the snow plow powered by a storage battery under development. A removable light was added to the storage battery so that it can be used as a light and a power source in the event of an emergency.

It is known that this function was used effectively by victims of the large-scale earthquake that hit Hokkaido in autumn 2018. The lights were used as emergency lights and were covered with vinyl bags to illuminate wider areas. Models with an optional 100V outlet for charging smart phones and so forth are also available.

Following the success of the snow plows powered by storage batteries, the company began to change its direction and motorize some of the machines that it had been developing by using storage batteries even though the machines had been originally designed with engines mounted.

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