Batteries Not Included: 1970s GE Elec-Trak E12

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Alrighty then, here’s something you didn’t expect to see here! Or, maybe you did since it’s from me. This is a 1970s GE Elec-Trak E12 battery-powered garden tractor and it’s in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s on Craigslist with an asking price of $425. And, just like the old commercials that you used to see as a kid: “batteries not included”.

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Believe it or not, these garden tractors are highly collectible, there’s a huge fan base for these Elec-Trak garden tractors and related power equipment that attaches to them for all sorts of chores. They were made by GE as sort of an evolution of its attempt to create a battery-powered car in 1968. The Delta was meant to carry two adults and two children, but like most early attempts at electric vehicles, the weight of the batteries and the short-range were reasons that GE stopped the Delta project. But, they saw the benefit, or the lack of detriment, of both of those things in regard to a garden tractor. You don’t have to drive 50 miles when you’re mowing your lawn unless you’re the Sultan of Brunei or you own a golf course, and the weight helps with traction.

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By 1969, GE had prototypes made and started lining up dealers and going to trade shows. The future looked bright. They’re a beautiful little machine when they’re restored, which a lot of owners do. The E12M had a mid-mounted mower deck whereas this model, the E12, used a front-mounted deck and other accessories. Speaking of which, there’s a snowplow blade and mower deck included with this tractor. Yes, they’re made to be used in the winter, too! They offered a snow cab for winter use, it’s rare to find one of those today.

The GE Elec-Trak was the world’s first commercially-produced electric garden tractor. Here’s an E15 mowing a lawn on YouTube, and an E20 on YouTube plowing, just to show how quiet and powerful they are. And, just for kicks, here’s a YouTube clip of a woman winning an E12 on Let’s Make A Deal from 1971! The E12 was the equivalent of a 12-hp gas-powered engine, even though it had only a 1.5 hp electric motor. The company made several models from an ER8-36 to the E20 and with the recession proceeding the energy embargo in the early-1970s, the company saw a drop in orders and they sold the Elec-Trak line to Wheel-Horse which only operated it for a year and then shut it down.

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Mower decks and snowplows weren’t the only Elec-Trak branded accessories available, they offered a snowblower attachment, trimmers, edgers, chain saws, front-end loaders, rotary broom, sprayer, and even a radio, to name a few. One of the most important features would have been the charger/inverter that allowed for the use of regular plug-in tools out in the field. It could even power your house, or a portion of it, in the event of a power outage. As I mentioned, this one doesn’t come with batteries, so the 795 normal weight of the E12 would be down to around 400 pounds which should help with shipping charges. But, you’ll still have to buy six 6-volt batteries when you get it home and that won’t be cheap, but it’ll be worth it! You will most likely have the only Elec-Trak in your neighborhood if not your whole town.

I think it would be super fun to own one of these, just for the shock value (no pun intended) if nothing else, when your neighbors are wondering why it’s so quiet whenever you mow your lawn or snow-blow your driveway. Have you ever heard of the Elec-Trak garden tractors?

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Comments

  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    Believe it or not, Scotty, I’ve not only heard of these I’ve tried to buy a couple. Never found one in this nice shape, though…I wish it were closer! NICE find!

  2. JW

    Cool, what would the estimated cost of six 6 volt batteries cost? I’m only about 3 1/2 hours away from this gem.

  3. Rock On Member

    Cost of the batteries will almost double the asking price of this machine. Still a good deal if you are into this sort of thing.

  4. Fred W.

    Get the batteries, then go to Harbor Freight and get a trailer for lawn tractors and a 45 watt solar panel kit for $180. You are now towing your power source and can mow a swath across America for free.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I’m with you on that, Fred! That’s a great idea. Here’s a photo of the “barn” (1,000 times nicer than our house!) where a huge collector of Elec-Traks keeps his collection:

      https://www.myelec-traks.com/barn.JPG

      He says that it takes a day of sunshine to totally charge one up, for free. Of course, the solar panels weren’t cheap, but..

  5. Chebby

    Great article Scotty! Never heard of these before. Love learning new trivia about old things.

  6. CelestialGryphon

    Fred actually makes a really good point! That’s a great idea!

  7. larry

    I’m only 40 minutes away from Cedar Rapids this maybe worth checking out.

  8. whippeteer

    I saw a restored one locally for $450 I think.

  9. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    I love it that you folks are up for seeing these oddball/unusual things, thanks for being so open minded!

  10. alan

    An early Tesla.

  11. charlie Member

    Friend had one, 2 acre lot, mostly lawn, wide but short driveway, used it for close to 40 years until he died. Kept it garaged. Also plowed snow with it. Daughter inherited it, but she lives down South, as we say up here in snow country, and sold it real cheap, maybe $100. Had batteries, and it ran well.

  12. Fogline

    Want it!
    I was actually thinking of seeing if I could convert a tractor to battery power. A guy I knew had a small crawler that seemed perfect as the prior owner had left it behind when he sold the house after tearing the engine apart and leaving it open to the elements. Plenty heavy duty enough to carry a forklift battery that should have been able to power it for what I needed. We had a deal for me to take it along with a car he sort of had for sale. He changed his mind on selling the car and I never got the tractor.

  13. Ed Kratil

    Nice timing. Looks as though there’s another for sale in Ithaca, NY (not mine).

    https://ithaca.craigslist.org/grd/5812199044.html

  14. John

    Had one that I was going to restore. The batteries aren’t cheap after you buy six of them. And let’s just say that 70’s era electronics aren’t overly efficient. Then I found something better so I sold it. Had a 36″ snowblower in addition to the mower deck. There was a forklift attachment made for them but I never found one.

  15. Mark P

    I watched the youtube videos of these in action a few months ago after actually seeing the Let’s Make A Deal episode on Buzzr TV. They won one of these. Good stuff.

  16. Mark P

    Another possibly soon to be classic, a couple summers ago Home Depot was selling a riding mower that was electric powered by an on board generator. It had a panel on it with electrical outlets so you could use it as a generator too.

  17. John

    There is one now. It’s called the Raven. Not at HD but my local power equipment place sells them.

  18. AMCFAN

    We had a local IH dealer who sold these new. They weren’t strong sellers and usually were parked behind the barn when the batteries went bad. Thus rusting out. Then being scrapped. There were a host of accessories you could get with these in fact the old guy who owned the dealership still has an nos fork lift accessory that could be mounted to the front.

    I think Tesla would be successful if they would market them today. Hey, Honda makes mowers. Why not??

  19. John

    Well Tesla are the battery gurus which were and still are the limiting factors.

  20. Rob guzi

    Love this, brings back the days of being 11 years old mowing the lawn. This thing was torquey and fast too !

  21. Randy

    My father bought one of these back in 1974 to beat the spirally increasing fuel costs brought on by the “energy crisis” (imposed by OPEC as retribution for the US support of Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur war). It was novel alright but couldn’t cut it as far as tractors go. Sure you could mow the lawn with it. The sales pamphlets even even offered accessories so that you could use it as a golf cart with its turf saver tires. But try and pull a manure spreader (we had two horses in those days), and its insufficiency as a tractor became quite evident. This was eventually replaced with a 17 hp Kubota diesel which served us well for twenty years. My father even boasted that he sold that tractor for about what he paid for it twenty years prior (purchased in 1979 – sold it in 1999) after he retired and sold the estate.

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