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Fuel costs form a significant proportion of farmers operating costs
now and in the future. New Holland believes hydrogen technology will give farmers an independent supply of energy,
which could be used in a wide variety of vehicles and applications, giving them greater control over the future of
The traditional barriers to the use of hydrogen centre on its distribution and availability. The wide roaming capability of cars and lorries means use of hydrogen in commercial and personal vehicles has been limited primarily by the lack of an extensive national distribution system, which would be very costly to implement.
The Energy Independent Farm concept envisages farmers producing their own compressed hydrogen from water and storing the hydrogen on the farm. Using a process called electrolysis, electricity produced by wind farms, solar panels or biomass and biogas processes situated on the farm would break water down into hydrogen and oxygen. While the hydrogen-powered NH2™ tractor is the first practical step, it is wider implications of New Holland’s Energy Independent Farm concept that could revolutionise the agricultural industry and allow it to leapfrog the energy concerns of other industries.
“Farmers are in a unique position to benefit from hydrogen technology. Unlike many people, they have the space to install alternative electricity generation systems, such as solar, wind, biomass or waste, and then store that power as hydrogen. Apart from the environmental benefits, such a system would allow customers to become energy independent and improve their financial stability” said Pierre Lahutte, New Holland's head of Global Product Marketing, Tractors & Telehandlers
Hydrogen-power technologies are already receiving strong support at an international level with the European Commissioner for Research stating that ‘the ultimate objective of this technological platform will be the deployment of a competitive European energy system.’
Unique advantages of using hydrogen
Many electrical production systems are currently in use by farms around the world, harnessing the power of the wind, sun and biomass. However, the electrical power that is not used at the time of production must be sold back to the national power system or lost. The Independent Farm Concept extends this process by allowing the power to be stored in the form of compressed hydrogen, which could then be used directly in farm machinery or in generators to provide electrical power and heat for buildings and numerous applications.
Hydrogen-powered vehicles have been in development for many years, and in agriculture, offer benefits over battery-driven vehicles, which are efficient only in a stop-and-start cycle and take a long time to recharge.
Vehicles powered by hydrogen overcome these obstacles by using a hydrogen fuel tank feeding fuel cells to generate electricity within the vehicle, offering greater efficiency and improved flexibility. Fuel cells have a long working life and avoid the environmental issues of disposing of batteries.
NH2™ hydrogen-powered tractor
The hydrogen-powered NH2™ tractor is a key element and practical demonstration of New Holland’s Energy Independent Farm concept. The first tractor in the world to be powered by hydrogen, the concept is a natural fit with the brand’s Clean Energy Leader position, which saw the company lead the industry with its support for 100% bio-diesel without complicated servicing and reduced machine performance.
Based on the popular T6000, the experimental NH2™ tractor replaces the traditional combustion engine with hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity. Compressed hydrogen drawn from a tank on the tractor reacts in the fuel cell with oxygen, drawn from the air, to produce water and electrons. The electrons are harnessed in the form of an electric current, which drives electric motors to power the tractor’s drive train and auxiliary systems.
It is the close commercial reality of the NH2™ tractor that makes the project of huge benefit to the brand’s customers. More than just an idea, the NH2™ tractor is a 106hp working prototype able to perform all the tasks of a T6000 tractor, while operating virtually silently and emitting only heat, vapour and water. The fuel cell generates less heat than an internal combustion engine, offers a consistent output of power and does not produce polluting nitrogen oxides, soot particles or carbon dioxide. The clean operation of the tractor brings added health benefits when working in confined areas, such as animal sheds or greenhouses.
New Holland’s Energy Independent Farm concept offers farmers a positive vision for the future, enabling them to control their business costs while meeting the ever-growing demands to more productive, more efficient and protect the environment.