As the calendar flips to 2011, the next level of emission standards mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency—Tier 4 Interim for engines 174 hp and higher—will take effect.
“If you look at the greatest challenges in our industry, for many years it has been the advent of coming online with Tier 4. The industry has spent billions of dollars on research and development to come into compliance,” says Charlie O’Brien VP of ag services for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “Some of the companies have spent 50% of their research and development budgets on Tier 4 compliance in the past few years. These regulations are with good intentions overall, but it hasn’t come without a price.”
Of course, new engines have meant new models of machinery. Manufacturers are working toward a common goal, but they are each using different technologies and strategies to meet regulations and phase the new engines into their lineup. Tier 4 Interim put a fork in the road with engine technologies.
In 2009, AGCO announced its technology path was selective catalytic reduction (SCR) with the Challenger MT600B and Massey Ferguson 8600 Series. After the introduction, AGCO still offered another engine option without the SCR system. However, a year after those models were introduced, I asked a dealer how many of his orders were SCR, and he responded at least 75%.
The other technology path besides SCR is an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).
And much like the technology paths, there is more than one way manufacturers are reaching compliance. Using government credits, equipment makers are able to offset their timing for bringing models up to compliance.
“For our Apache sprayers, we’ve decided to transition to Tier 4 Interim engines by model. Our 1020 model, which makes up half of our production, will transition as the compliance comes due. But for our other two models, we will use purchased credits with the government to transition those at a later date,” says Matt Hays, CEO of Equipment Technologies.
Manufacturers report that customers are moving forward with machinery purchases.
On December 1, Case IH shipped the world's first tractor that meets Tier 4 Interim emissions standards for ag machinery. Paul Fortkamp, a Fort Recovery, Ohio farmer was the first customer to receive the new Magnum 180 tractor with SCR technology. Fortkamp traveled with his dealer, Hull Brothers, and neighbor Duane Lennartz, who he shares equipment with, to the Case IH tractor factory in Racine, Wis. Fortkamp raises poultry and grows corn and soybeans.
At the end of November, John Deere officials reported that 2,500 retail orders had been placed for 8R tractors with Tier 4 Interim compliant engines.
There are still plenty of machines above the power threshold of 174 hp that we haven’t seen with their new power plants. Stay tuned at the winter farm shows and through the fall for these machines to be rolled off into the public eye.
At least one manufacturer has already revealed that this summer they will have the biggest product introduction in the company’s history.