How Zero-emission Hydrogen Tractors are Changing the Face of Farming

How Zero-emission Hydrogen Tractors are Helping the Farming Industry Fight-back

The farming industry, particularly in the west, is facing a torrid time, and some who have little knowledge of the industry are finding every excuse to criticise the industry’s practices. However, there is a fightback underway, and it involves the use of hydrogen-powered tractors, which has resulted in a new, burgeoning industry.

A tractor is a vehicle with small wheels in front and two large wheels in the rear. They come in different power ranges, from under 40 HP to over 100 HP. They have diverse applications in agriculture, construction, and logistics and are also used for moving equipment attachments, including ploughs, tillers, rotavators, seeders, cultivators, and harvesters.

A fuel pump made from green leaves

Zero-emission tractors, known as “hydrogen tractors,” use hydrogen for fueling their onboard electric motor or engine. Unlike gasoline-powered and diesel-powered vehicles, this vehicle does not produce any harmful greenhouse gases (GHG) like carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NO2) while it is in motion. The utilisation of tractor machinery enhances agricultural efficiency and reduces expenses.

These tractors also require less effort to operate, which reduces labour costs as well as the duration of the operation. Additionally, improvements in machine technology encourage the growth of the global tractor industry, which is anticipated to fuel the market for hydrogen-powered tractors.

According to a recent study by Allied Market Research, the global hydrogen-powered tractor market is estimated to display a significant compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2026 to 2035.

A super-advanced Kubota model with caterpillar tracks

Furthermore, many more companies are moving into the hydrogen-powered tractor sector, bringing additional innovation and helping to boost the market further. Moreover, the market growth is also being helped by the increasing government support for farm mechanisation through subsidies and the potential expansion of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

A good example occurred at the Kubota Connect event in October 2022, where dealers were introduced to the latest addition to the manufacturer’s lineup-the 4th Generation Series M7. These new tractors are specifically tailored to the needs of farmers, primarily focusing on livestock and forage production. The Kubota M7 series is currently the largest in the company’s range.

Also, the new 246 Dyna track and Massey Ferguson 244 versions of the tractor were introduced by TAFE in September 2021 and manufactured for the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha. These tractors stand out for their advanced design, high utility, and powerful engine.

A John Deere 8R tractor working in a field

Deere & Company introduced the first fixed-frame four-track tractors in the industry along with the 8RT two-track tractors, 8R wheel tractors, and 8 Family Tractor line-ups in 2020. The latest tractors come with advanced precision agriculture technology, and customers can specify horsepower, features, and configuration for their specific needs.

Versatile aims to use a 15-litre hydrogen engine being developed by Cummins to power future tractors
In October 2022, Versatile’s collaboration with Cummins resulted in the testing of new engine technology specifically designed for the agricultural and off-road sectors. Coming soon will be the debut of a tractor equipped with a 15-litre hydrogen engine, which marks an innovative breakthrough for the industry. The testing process currently focuses on developing the Tier 4 Final engines.

A versatile engineering team under the direction of Leafloor is developing a tractor powered by hydrogen as a proof of concept. Cummins is also concentrating on developing 6.7 and 15-litre hydrogen engines. They aim to create an engine that can run on hydrogen, diesel, and methane fuels, using the same engine components from the head gaskets downwards.

An artist impression of the Leafloor engine

Hydrogen engines offer a torque curve that is comparable to that of diesel engines. Hydrogen combustion engines come to the forefront because they can provide a zero-carbon fuel solution for high load factors without sacrificing productivity, which is likely sustainable.

Leafloor suggests that farms linked with major brands such as Walmart, PepsiCo, and Cargill collaborate with farmers to promote sustainable food production. In this regard, farmers are willing to pay more for traceable and certified sustainable crops. Therefore, adopting hydrogen-powered tractors would be advantageous for agricultural development in the future.

A cheaper version of the bankrupt H2Trac tractor will be developed
H2trac, a Dutch tractor manufacturer, recently filed for bankruptcy in January 2023. Investors Anne Joldersma and Hilbrand Kuiken are continuing the business as E-Ox Tractors and plan to create a new, simpler model. The two owners are already joint shareholders of H2trac.

Hilbrand Kuiken, a co-owner of H2Trac, reveals that the company had financial issues and that the E-Ox tractor—a hybrid, fully electric, or hydrogen-powered vehicle—did not meet market demand well.

According to Kuiken, the new business, E-Ox Tractors, will modify two things. To start, the E-Ox tractors have undergone several modifications to make them more marketable and suitable for the agricultural industry. The specific changes that will be implemented are currently uncertain. Additionally, E-Ox Tractors will be establishing partnerships for both production and servicing.

• Simple and cheap variants

The E-Ox electric tractor’s range will remain unchanged, offering three different propulsion options: hydrogen, diesel-electric, and full electric. Additionally, a new variant is expected, which will be more affordable and environmentally friendly with minimal or no emissions.

E-Ox tractors have decided to keep its primary headquarters in Arnhem, Netherlands, while moving its assembly operations to an external location. The company will maintain an office and testing centre in Arnhem; however, E-Ox will outsource the physical construction of the tractors.

A farmer standing alone in his field with his arms crossed

COVID-19 Impact on Hydrogen Powered Tractor Market
The COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the agricultural and automotive industries. Governments worldwide have imposed a strict lockdown and a ban on the import and export of raw materials due to the COVID-19 outbreaks. Acquiring raw materials for the production of vehicle parts posed a challenge. However, as soon as the global situation started getting back to normalcy, the market for hydrogen-powered tractor market also recovered.

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About the author
Harshada Dive is an engineer by qualification. She has previous experience working as a customer service associate. As an associate-content writer, she loves to experiment with trending topics. Harshada also enjoys gardening and listening to motivational podcasts.

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