NH2 tractor on track

New Holland’s plans to market the NH2 hydrogen-powered tractor are progressing well, with an “Energy Independent Farm” already assigned to test the tractor next year.

La Bellotta Farm in Venaria, Turin, will be home to the first generation NH2 tractor (seen at LAMMA earlier this year), where it will be powered by hydrogen generated using electricity from 3000sq m of PV panels and from a 1MW biogas plant located on farm.

The two-stage digester has a cycle time of about 85 days, and works at about 97% efficiency. The methane produced is then passed through a combustion engine to produce electricity, with excess heat used to warm the two digesters to 40 degrees. The system also uses thermo-dynamics to cool the gas before it goes into the CHP plant.

Powering a tractor with hydrogen would be, in the worst case scenario, 55% efficient in terms of how much of the energy is used. Compare this to the 40% offered by a combustion engine in the best case and you can see why using this technology would be so beneficial. Add this also to the fact that farms can produce their own electricity through renewable sources, and that it could be possible to produce hydrogen without electrolysis having to take place – and New Holland’s idea of an “Energy Independent Farm” may not be a million miles away.

Technically speaking, say the engineers in Turin, the hydrogen powered NH2 could be on the market between 2015 and 2020, but realistically everything hinges on whether car companies embrace the technology to bring down the cost of fuel cells.

To get to the second-generation, however, it will take nearly €11m, half of which has been pledged by the Italian government, the other from a group of 13 partner companies including Fiat.

• To see a video of the NH2 tractor launch, click here.