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Hydrogen-powered tractor is a mean and clean farm machine

New Holland NH2

 (New Holland)

With such a focus on alternative propulsion for cars, it's easy for forget that every day, millions of other vehicles are used around the world.

Bikes, for example, or scooters and motorcycles - we've seen those going electric recently. Fork-lift trucks have been electric for years. But what about farm equipment? How about a hydrogen tractor?

Believe it or not, New Holland Agriculture has just revealed details of its second-generation hydrogen fuel cell tractor (via SAE International).

We didn't know there was even a first generation, but as befits a new, improved model, the new NH² model has double the power of the first, at 135 horsepower. It actually has two 135-horsepower electric motors, but one is used for auxiliary circuits and mechanical attachments used for different jobs.

It's torque that really matters with tractors, and at 700 lb ft of continuous torque, it's not light on the stuff. Peak torque of 887 lb ft is of tree stump-pulling proportions. New Holland says the drivetrain is 96 percent efficient.

An 18-pound hydrogen tank stores the fuel at 5075 psi, and the hydrogen itself would be generated on the farm, so it can be refuelled just as a normal tractor would be.

New Holland and a group of 13 partners are exploring various methods of hydrogen production, including electrolysis, steam-reforming natural gas, or exploiting the dark anaerobic fermentation of biomass. All three will be evaluated for their feasibility, costs, and benefits.

We can see the appeal of hydrogen tractors. The power and torque is comparable to the equivalent diesel tractor, while producing no local emissions. And it's much easier for each farm to have a hydrogen generating station than it would for a fuel cell car customer to have one in their garage.

New Holland will debut the NH² on the La Bellotta farm in Venaria, Italy - the perfect place, as it's an energy-independent farm, producing its electricity from natural sources.

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