Methane tractors available in three years

Following on from our in-depth look at how New Holland and its parent company, CNH Industrial, are pushing the boundaries of alternative fuelled vehicles, we continue the story with how the manufacturer intends to get the technology to market. James Rickard reports.

The timeline as to when New Holland’s methane tractor concept will be commercially available has fluctuated somewhat over the years, but the manufacturer is now adamant the technology will be available within the next three years.

While New Holland pretty much has its end sewn up with the development of a methane-powered tractor, it will be the infrastructure to fuel these machines which will ultimately be the deciding factor as to the acceptance of methane power.

New Holland’s original intent that the concept is a perfect fit for those producing their own biogas from either forage crops or livestock waste still stands, it says. However, to kick start the methane tractors’ career, the firm reckons it will be big agribusiness with multiple orders which will be the catalyst for the alternative fuels revolution.

Mark Howell, New Holland’s global product manager for alternative fuels explains; “We need decent order numbers in the early stages to make the production of these tractors justifiable. Once we have sufficient volume, we can then start concentrating on customers which may only want one or two machines.

“Early adopters of the methane powered concept will be the AD guys who have already invested in the infrastructure, and companies such as large vegetable growers who have a responsibility to the environment, which they need to demonstrate to investors and retailers.

“In both cases they could be running tractors and trucks, both of which could be fuelled by methane.”

But what about those who like the idea of running a methane powered tractor but do not produce their own energy? Mr Howell says it will take a network of on-farm methane producers, driven by the AD plants to provide fuel for local users of methane-powered machinery.

“This in turn provides an interesting prospect for the commercial vehicle sector. In many parts of the continent, a natural gas infrastructure allows the extensive use of alternative fuelled trucks and commercial vehicles – 22,000 of which have been produced by Iveco, New Holland’s sister company. If we had a network of on-farm fuel stations in the UK, particularly up the east side of the country, this would allow those trucks to be used in the UK too.”