Weaning Yourself from Diesel?

Farmer Iron

Tractor prototype visiting fall farm shows offers a glimpse at a truly different future.

Published on: September 16, 2010

Imagine a tractor rolling by you and the only sound is the scrape of the chisel plow through the soil. It's an interesting picture to contemplate, and while the idea may be a ways off farmers got a look at such a potential future during Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days this year.

The NH2 tractor from New Holland is a concept vehicle designed to allow engineers to test out ideas and see what might work. In this case, the tractor, which is a hand-built prototype on a T6000 platform, could produce 106 horsepower and nearly the same PTO horsepower.

Powered by hydrogen (which a farmer might produce himself - more on that in a moment), this tractor uses a fuel cell to create electricity. The electricity powers two motors - one for the drivetrain to get the tractor moving. The other motor powers the hydraulic system. The video at the link at the end of this blog shows you the machine and some of the key concepts.

New Holland is working on the Energy Independent Farm. The idea would be a farm where you produce all the energy you need for operation. You already have the space and you produce materials that could be turned into energy

For a hydrogen-powered fuel cell tractor, you might have an electrolyser on the farm. This a tool that separates hydrogen from water. The hydrogen would be safely stored in high-pressure tanks on the farm. That system could refuel the tractor in 5 minutes and have you on the way. The fuel cell could power the tractor for three hours on a fill. And it's a carbon-free energy source.

While you wouldn't expect to see this NH2 tractor on dealer lots anytime soon, the prototype does show what's possible. In addition, New Holland is working on an experimental farm that would test all the company's ideas for creating this energy independent farm.

Could it happen some day? Sure, if the economics are right. The idea that a farm could be a self-contained energy producer that provides food to the world is pretty tantalizing. The ideas always start with key concepts and this new tractor is a great step in the right direction.

Check out my interview with Justin Raski from New Holland who talks more about that hydrogen-powered tractor. And you can get a look at the tractor too. Just click HERE.