The fuel that powers the tractor, biomethane, is particularly well suited to farms because they have the raw materials and the space to house a biodigester to produce the gas.
A major tractor manufacturer has revealed plans for what it calls the farm of the future, with the release of a methane-powered tractor and a template for self-sufficient estates that produce their own biofuel.
The New Holland Concept Tractor will match the performance of diesel-powered equivalents but with up to 30% lower running costs, while the company’s vision for a self-sufficient farm focused on the ability to produce not just food, but also the biomass needed to run all of its machinery.
New Holland's latest tractor harnesses the expertise that the Italian company has built following its development of machinery that runs on bio-based fuel, such as 2009’s NH2, the world’s first hydrogen-run, zero-emissions tractor. Three years earlier, in 2006, it achieved another world first – when it became a pioneers in making all of its machinery 100% biofuel compatible.
New Holland’s agriculture brand president, Carlo Lambro, said the company’s “groundbreaking” engine would pay dividends to the farmers that use them. “It combines alternative fuels and advanced agricultural technology to create a vital link that closes the loop in the Energy Independent Farm’s virtuous cycle by running on the energy produced from the land and waste products,” said Lambro.
Launched at the US’s largest outdoor farm event, Farm Progress 2017, the tractor’s technology is exemplified by a safety system that automatically drives around potential hazards, such as trees or vehicles, while its advanced engine reduces overall emissions by 80% but not at the expense of power. The six-cylinder methane powertrain delivers 180 horse power that is the same as New Holland’s standard diesel equivalent.
The fuel that powers the tractor, biomethane, is particularly well suited to farms because they have the raw materials and the space to house a biodigester to produce the gas. Biodigesters are fed with specifically grown energy crops, animal and food waste to produce gas which is then refined into fuel-grade methane. The waste by-products can even be used as natural fertilisers.
Meanwhile, in potentially less favourable news for farmers in the UK, the Department for Transport announced proposals last week to limit the volume of crop-based biofuels, capping the crops that will make the fuel at the lowest levels in Europe. An idea that the National Farmers Union (NFU) said would put its arable farmer members at a “competitive disadvantage”, the planned 2018 cap of four percent is intended to be lowered incrementally until it reaches two percent by 2032.
The four percent figure was in fact a rise from the government’s previous high of two percent, however the NFU have called for a rate of seven percent to bring it in line with Europe. There are concerns that, with Brexit around the corner, farmers will not be able to compete with their European neighbours.
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