March 6, 2009 Tractors may not be the sexiest of vehicles, and they probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind when thinking about environmental friendliness, but agricultural equipment manufacturer New Holland is looking to change that with the production of a prototype tractor that is powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell.

The New Holland NH2 is based on New Holland’s current T6000 tractor, but instead of the standard diesel combustion engine, features two electric motors – the first providing power to traction and the second providing power to power train operations and auxiliaries. The emission free NH2 can run for roughly 1.5 – 2 hours on a single hydrogen tank with the fuel cell generating around 106 horsepower. The replacing of the standard combustion engine has also produced an almost ‘stealth tractor’ as the NH2 produces practically no noise. The NH2’s design also means that the vehicle has no gears and therefore no power losses and power is delivered only as needed.

The NH2 is part of New Holland’s vision of an energy independent farm where farmers will be able to generate their own energy to run their farm and agricultural equipment. This vision entails farmers generating electrical energy from free and renewable resources such as wind, solar, waste or biomass, which is then used to power an electrolyzer – the opposite of a fuel cell in that it produces gaseous hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is then stored in high-pressure tanks where it can be stored before being transferred to the NH2 tractor.

The next step in New Holland’s vision is a second generation NH2 and an experimental farm to test the concept. If New Holland can make such a system viable then farmers could be set to make significant fuel savings while helping the environment.

While we’ve seen futuristic tractor concepts before, the NH2’s real importance not only lies in its green technology, but the fact that it is a major manufacturer putting forward the idea. As we’ve seen with the Prius, the backing of an established company with all the support and financial backing that implies can provide a security buffer for people looking to go green. New Hollland is a long established and respected manufacturer of agricultural equipment, so when the next generation of hydrogen powered tractor is ready for the production line maybe a few farmers will be willing to take the green plunge.

Darren Quick

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