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Methane-powered tractor could fuel the future

The new tractor concept represents a significant technological advance, building on the foundations of previous prototypes

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The methane-powered tractor concept by New Holland
The methane-powered tractor concept by New Holland

Farmers could spearhead the move away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles towards renewable sources, by using a ‘closed-loop’ virtuous cycle that powers tractors using energy produced from their own land and waste products.

 

That’s the thinking behind the new methane powered concept tractor presented at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, USA by New Holland Agriculture, a global agricultural brand of CNH Industrial NV.

 

The concept features a reimagined tractor design, which is a clear departure from anything seen to date in agriculture. The New Holland methane powered concept tractor reflects the increasing importance and viability of alternative fuels in farming, and of creating fuel from crops, agricultural waste and waste from the wider food industry.

 

New Holland has proactively combined alternative fuels and advanced agricultural technology to create a modern, sustainable solution to the need for ‘future-proof’ power, with readily available and proven powertrain technology.

 

CNH Industrial’s brands have a long history in developing and commercialising natural gas-powered vehicles, and they are the market leaders in this area. Since pioneering natural gas technology 20 years ago, FPT Industrial, the powertrain brand of CNH Industrial, has produced more than 30,000 natural gas engines, running on both compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

 

There are some 22,000 natural gas powered vehicles from CNH Industrial’s truck and bus brands IVECO and IVECO BUS on the road today. Capital cities as diverse as Astana, Baku, Madrid and Paris have chosen natural gas-powered IVECO BUS fleets to transport their citizens.

 

CNH Industrial and IVECO are also working with world governments, such as that of Israel, with whom they have established a cooperation to develop alternative fuel and natural gas-based technologies. In addition, FPT Industrial is working on a range of hybrid and electric propulsion solutions, with some 1,200 IVECO and IVECO BUS vehicles powered by this technology produced to date.

 

The new methane powered tractor concept represents a significant technological advance, building on the foundations of previous prototypes. It uses an FPT Industrial engine which has been specifically developed for agricultural applications and delivers maximum power of 180hp and maximum torque of 740Nm, identical to the equivalent diesel powerplant.

 

The engine features stoichiometric combustion technology, which has been developed by FPT Industrial, and was first introduced in 1995. It is applied across the entire natural gas engine portfolio as it enables comparative performance to diesel engines, whilst delivering ultra-low emissions and high efficiency.

 

The concept tractor features advanced fuel tank design that enables day-long autonomy. In addition to farm-grown energy crops, crop residue and other waste products are used to produce biomethane, the resulting fuel has a virtually zero CO2 profile – and delivers an 80 per cent reduction in overall emissions. The concept’s powertrain develops the same power and torque as its standard diesel counterpart, meaning identical infield performance.

 

And this is achieved with a 50 per cent reduction in drive-by noise levels, which makes it ideal when working in the yard, especially around livestock and in municipal operations.

 

Biomethane is produced using a cyclical system that delivers CO2 neutral production. It particularly suits on-farm use by agricultural vehicles as farmers already possess the raw materials and the space to produce the gas.

 

This enables agribusinesses not only to be fuel sufficient, but also energy sufficient, as biomethane can also be burned to generate electricity to power farm buildings as well as to satisfy any heating requirements. In addition, it can be fed into the gas grid for domestic requirements, and can be used to create electricity to be fed into the national grid to power communities, creating a truly virtuous cycle.

 

 

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