Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Watch: Could methane-powered tractors be the future on farms?

FarmIreland Team

FarmIreland Team

The tractor of the future could run on waste, as one of the largest tractor companies in the world launches concept methane powered tractor.

Machinery giant New Holland has launched a concept tractor that would run on methane.

According to the company, 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.

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 and there are 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 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 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 80pc reduction in overall emissions.

The concept’s powertrain develops the same power and torque as its standard diesel counterpart, meaning identical infield performance, while it also has a 50pc reduction in drive-by noise levels.

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.

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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.

In addition, they can turn waste products such as animal manures, crop straw and waste food into energy, and can benefit from an additional revenue stream by selling biomethane to third parties to fuel their vehicles.

To make optimal use of space, the tractor’s fuel is stored within tanks produced using a composite layered tubular structure within a sleek and integrated storage structure fitted at the front of the tractor, together with two tanks on the left and right of the machine. This new layout enables a full day of farm-work autonomy.

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