There is no denying that diesel delivers the power & longevity needed for agriculture & off-highway vehicles.
Traditional diesel fuelled tractors (which run red diesel) account for nearly 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year in the UK. Therefore, in June 2019, the UK Government passed laws guaranteeing an end to its contribution to global warming by 2050.
Consequently, from April 2022 the entitlement to use red diesel & rebated biodiesel was removed from most sectors to help meet the UK’s climate change & air quality targets. (1)
The reasoning behind the move was to encourage agricultural machinery manufacturers to make the shift to emissions free & embrace hydrogen, biogas or methane as fuel alternatives.
Hydrogen lends itself as an alternative to diesel due to the ability to integrate it into an already existing diesel model, while continuing to utilise established supply chains.
One such example is the New Holland NH2TM dual-fuel tractor.
New Holland – Hydrogen Tractor.
As far back as 2011, New Holland Agriculture launched its NH2TM Hydrogen powered tractor. Having already won the Gold Innovation Medal at SIMA 2009 for the original concept, the Hydrogen powered tractor was New Holland’s reaffirmation of it’s role as a Clean Energy leader, way before some of it’s predecessors were even considering the shift away from traditional diesel engines.
The New Holland NH2TM tractor is powered by FPT’s renowned 4.5 litre NEF Stage V 4-cylinder engine (maximum output 140 hp). This engine is fitted with FPT’s unique HI-eSCR technology & includes a maintenance-free filter system in its SCR catalytic converter, making it possible to meet tighter PM emissions limits within a compact unit – the second generation HI-eSCR 2. (2)
Hydrogen is stored in 5 cylinders, which are placed above the tractor cab for increased safety without compromising functionality. Each cylinder contains 11.5kg of hydrogen pressurised at 350 bar.
Using a ‘dual-fuel’ system, the New Holland tractor uses HVO (blue diesel) a bio-diesel made form waste vegetable oil together with other waste such as animal fat.
HVO is thus a fossil-free, renewable fuel that offers huge sustainability benefits, such as an 89% reduction in CO2 & lower emissions of harmful substances such as particulate matter, nitrogen and sulphur. (2)
The dual-fuel engine can run on 100% diesel if hydrogen is unavailable. The engines can then run on a hydrogen-diesel mixture via a simple fuelling process just like normal petrol or diesel fuelling.
In October 2020 Jos Scholman & New Holland unveiled the first hydrogen tractor for the Netherlands. Using a mix of diesel & hydrogen, the new ‘dual-fuel’ tractor results in a fifty percent reduction in Co2, has the ability to store 11.5 kg of hydrogen & can reportedly run for 8 hours on hydrogen & then diesel once the hydrogen cylinders are empty.
Although the use of Hydrogen in tractors is not a new concept, it is something which continues to be developed by some of the leading names in agriculture engine development.
Most recently Cummins Inc have announced their hydrogen engine collaboration with Buhler Industries Inc, part of the Versatile brand.
Cummins Inc/Buhler Industries Inc (Versatile) Hydrogen Tractor engine
The Versatile brand having been a long-standing manufacturer of agricultural machinery, have been using Cummins engines in all their four-wheel drive tractors since 1967.
Both Versatile & Cummins have consistently been leading the way in technology, innovation & delivering reliable performance to farmers across the globe & are both expertly positioned to step forward into new powertrain technologies.
It therefore makes sense that Versatile & Cummins have signed a letter of intent to integrate Cummins 15-litre hydrogen engines in Versatile’s equipment to lead the decarbonization of the agriculture market. (3)
“While diesel engines continue to be the flexible power of choice for the foreseeable future in agriculture, such a collaboration enables both companies to develop low & zero carbon solutions that are ideally suited to farming,” said Adam Reid, Versatile’s Vice-President of Sales and Marketing. (3)
Hydrogen combustion engines can provide a cost effective zero-carbon fueled solution for agriculture & off-highway applications. The cost-effective nature of hydrogen usage in pre-existing engine models & the high commonality among engine components between diesel & hydrogen; can give advantages for OEMs & help deliver the essential dependability & longevity farmers require.
Written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2