Horsepower from Hydrogen

April 14, 2009 07:00 PM

Margy Fischer, Farm Journal Machinery Editor
The automotive industry has been revved up about hydrogen fuel cells for years. Could it be that agriculture might beat them to the starting line?
New Holland is gearing up to make it a race. The NH2 is New Holland's prototype hydrogen-powered tractor. Look closely and you'll notice the styling is based on the T6000 Series. Underneath the hood the traditional combustion engine is replaced with fuel cell technology that can power the tractor for 1.5 to 2 hours. The fuel cells convert compressed hydrogen back into electricity to drive the electric motors powering the drive train and auxiliary systems.
A fuel cell is much like a battery because it uses a pair of electrodes in a conductive solution. Hydrogen and oxygen each pass over an electrode and the electric current that is generated runs the tractor's motor and the other runs the PTO and auxiliary power. The hydrogen is provided by the electrolysis and the oxygen comes from the air.
New Holland sees the ag workhorse as completing the energy cycle on the farm. The hydrogen required to power the NH2 will be generated on the farm using electrolysis of water. The electricity required for the process of electrolysis will be supplied by renewable sources: wind power, solar power or biomass. The tractor emits only water vapor.
First unveiled at the SIMA exhibition in Paris this February, the NH2 is a working prototype with 106 hp. Engineers are hopeful the next generation will have an increased work capacity of 8 to 9 hours before refueling is required. The project carries over knowledge from New Holland's parent company Fiat and its automotive division. The company says production could start within 10 to 15 years.

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You can e-mail Margy Fischer at

This article appeared in a recent issue of Farm Journal's Crop Technology Update eNewsletter. To sign up for a free subscription, click here.

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