LONDON — A methane-powered tractor? It’s in the works from New Holland Agriculture.
Farmers could spearhead the move away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles toward renewable sources by using a closed-loop, virtuous cycle that powers tractors using energy produced from their own land and waste products.
Natural gas engines
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
The new methane-powered tractor concept builds on the foundations of previous prototypes. It uses an FPT Industrial engine which has been developed for agricultural applications and delivers maximum power of 180hp and maximum torque of 740Nm, identical to the equivalent diesel powerplant.
The methane powered 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 percent reduction in overall emissions.
Alternative energy: Biomethane
Biomethane can be produced from a mixture of specifically grown energy crops and waste plant or food material, the latter in both liquid and solid forms. This material is either harvested from the fields or gathered at the farm from sources such as food factories, supermarkets and restaurants and canteens, and is fed into a biodigester.
Here, in the absence of air, it is heated and begins to break down biologically as it is digested by bacteria, much like any compost heap. As it does so, it gives off biogas, including biomethane, in a two-stage fermentation process lasting around 60 days. This is eventually refined to produce fuel-grade biomethane, a product which can then be used to power the tractor.
For farmers who do not have the resources to produce their own biomethane, the New Holland methane-powered concept tractor can be powered by ‘conventional’ network methane.
The tractor refuels like one powered conventionally with diesel, using a single nozzle, and with comparable filling time.
CNH’s futuristic design
CNH Industrial’s international design team have reimagined tractor styling, and created a vision for the future of tractor design. Key New Holland styling cues have been accentuated, such as the aggressive hood air intake gills and combined with futuristic elements including the wrap-around hood, which extends into the ‘collar’ of the cab, integrated front fenders to create a flowing design and a custom metallic blue livery.
A complete LED lighting package features New Holland signature lighting, with lights integrated into the front tank, front fenders, hood and roof mounted work lights, roof mounted stop lights and aggressive rear fender lights to offer unsurpassed levels of in-field visibility.
Advanced features include:
- Wrap-around glazing provides 360-degree visibility, with a 20% increase in the glazed area compared to a standard tractor.
- The floating domed roof creates a completely panoramic design will enable operators to view a front loader throughout the entire operational arc.
- The use of 360-degree viewing cameras eliminates the need for wing mirrors, with the surrounding view displayed on the fixed hub steering wheel display. Wireless cameras can also be attached to implements operated by the tractor, for close-up viewing of performance.
- Voice control of key functions enables the operator to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times
- The specific software on a smartphone makes it the link between the farm office and the tractor.
- The tractor can be located and unlocked using a fingerprint identification process, which is replicated in the cab as an additional security measure. Only once this has been completed will the tractor ‘start’ sequence be initiated. The smartphone can also be used to control the rear linkage, making hitching implements easier, as the operator can stay next to the implement during the entire hitching sequence.
For further information on the methane-powered concept tractor, visit: bit.ly/methane-powered-concept.