New Holland updates methane-powered prototype tractor

Using methane as an alternative fuel source for farm machinery has been a concept that New Holland has pursued for a few years now. This week it introduced its most recent methane-powered prototype, providing a glimpse at what the tractors of the future could offer the agricultural industry, according to FG Insight. 

The engine powering this experimental model is able to develop 180hp and push out 740Nm of torque, meaning that its performance is equal to that of a diesel engine of a similar size and capacity.

While the methane-based engine will need to be serviced with the same regularity as a diesel equivalent, it will be almost a third cheaper to run, thanks to lower fuel costs and improved efficiency.

New Holland also points out that the noise of a diesel engine will seem deafening in comparison with the methane power plant, which is up to 50 per cent quieter in real terms, making it less disruptive for other site users as well as for the operator themselves.

So far, most of these capabilities have been found on earlier methane concept tractors, but where this new model makes a big leap is in its operational range. An improved tank system means that there is enough room onboard for a day’s worth of fuel to be stored, meaning there is no need to stop work for a refill half way through a job.

The 80 per cent reduction in emissions when compared with a similarly specified diesel tractor is another major boon, with about a tenth of this being carbon dioxide itself and other harmful gasses and particulates making up the rest of the total.

Furthermore, the ability to accept methane which has been generated from biological sources means that there are even more ways to improve the eco-friendliness of this tractor. Farmers could even recycle the methane produced on site which would otherwise go to waste, enabling additional emissions reductions.

The underpinnings and mechanical elements of the tractor are not the only thing which have been enhanced to give it futuristic capabilities, as the aesthetic styling and the layout of the cab are also cutting edge.

Glazing on all four sides and a glass roof give unrivaled visibility from the driver’s seat, which is not just great for straightforward tasks, but also makes it easier to use loader attachments and backhoes, as and when necessary.

The armrest has been adapted to house the majority of the key inputs, while an integrated display gives real time information and assists with the management of the various systems and features.

The display itself is built into the tractor’s steering wheel, rather than being mounted elsewhere in the cab. This means that the operator can keep their attention focused forwards while still getting all the data they need.

This concept tractor is just one of New Holland’s projects that look set to shape the future of farm machinery, even if this particular model is not one which makes it to production.

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