New Holland will add methane powered tractor to range in 2021

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Seeking an alternative fuel source has been high on the agenda for the New Holland badge for over 14 years – it turns out that methane is the winning fuel
T6 Methane Power tractor
A methane powered tractor that New Holland has been developing for several years will be the first production line model to offer a substitute fuel for diesel – this T6-180 model has maximum engine power of 132kW (180hp)

New Holland engineers have been leading the chorus in the drive to find an alternative fuel to diesel and while many see the future in electric power, New Holland has jumped the queue and has advised a firm production schedule for methane fuelled models.

A Methane-powered tractor series will be added the New Holland retail range by the end of 2021.

The paddock trials are all but complete, and in the first half of 2021 production units will be delivered to selected customers in Germany, France, Italy, and the UK.

Key markets for New Holland T6 tractors and locations where farm biogas production is the most advanced in Europe.

First-up for retail sales, the methane powered models will be available through all dealer yards in Europe by the end of 2021, and then be sold through all current New Holland tractor dealers worldwide by early 2022.

No tractor company has pushed the methane power source as hard as New Holland, and as for long.

The first New Holland methane powered tractor prototype was unveiled in 2013.

T6 Methane Power tractor
New Holland’s first generation methane powered tractor was based on a T6.140 tractor, revealed in 2013 it fitted with a four-cylinder FPT light truck engine that developed 100kW (136hp) and 350Nm of torque. Testing was taking place in Italy at La Bellotta near Turin

And while the prototype was based on a T6.140 tractor, it was actually fitted with a four-cylinder FPT light truck engine that developed 100kW (136hp) and 350Nm of torque at relatively high revs, so it requiring a reduction gearbox in the transmission.

A second generation prototype tractor was exhibited at a trade show in Milan, Italy in 2015 and underscored a belief that the time will come when farms can be energy independent and fundamentally reduce their environmental footprint.

The New Holland T6 Methane Power tractor in its second generation prototype was based on a standard New Holland T6.175 with a spark ignition version of an NEF six-cylinder motor from CNH’s engine unit, FPT Industrial, equipped to run on natural gas.

T6 Methane Power tractor
Things are starting to warm up as New Holland’s second generation methane tractor based on a New Holland T6.175 ran a six-cylinder engine generating 132kW (179hp) and 740Nm, with power and torque delivery similar to the equivalent diesel engine but it offered fuel cost savings of 20 to 40%

New Holland said at the time in 2015, the only changes needed over a standard tractor are those associated with storing and supplying the bio-methane fuel to the engine; all other elements of the tractor are unaffected.

Fitting in all those pressurised bio-methane tanks presented a problem until engineers begun to nestle them either side of the transmission where the plastic diesel tanks normally reside and further tanks attached to the cab’s rear pillars

In its second generation guise, storage tanks pressurised to 200 Bar replaced the diesel tanks on either side of the transmission on the T6 Methane Power tractor.

And other storage options were installed in pods attached to the cab rear pillars – which had an inevitable impact on visibility to the rear of the tractor.

Together, the nine tanks held 300 litres, equivalent to 52kg of compressed methane, which is enough in most cases for about half a day’s work, depending on what the tractor is doing.

Trials with the second generation T6 Methane Power tractor suggested that it could bring fuel cost savings down by 20 to 40% per cent.

In terms of environmental performance, it offered 80% lower polluting emissions than a standard diesel tractor and was capable of fulfilling future greenhouse gas targets.

The motive behind the creation has always been to find cost-effectiveness alternatives to diesel.

The third generation methane gas-fuelled tractor New Holland revealed in 2018 was a sleek looking affair, and gave a clue to a possible future release design.

T6 Methane Power tractor
Exploring futuristic bodywork and cab styling was always part of the New Holland methane tractor’s brief

The methane fuelled model was based on a current New Holland T6.180 and produced up to 132kW (180hp) and 740Nm of torque – the same as its diesel-fuelled counterpart.

However, while the engine performance may have been similar in terms of power and torque, the methane fuelled variant offered ground-breaking efficiency from the FPT six-cylinder engine.

Minimalist design for established controls and portable device connectivity were part of the methane tractor upgrades

It only incurred 30% of the diesel-fuelled engine’s running costs and was also 50% quieter in terms of drive-by noise – up to 3dBA in decibel measurement terms.

Furthermore, the methane fuelled tractor recorded CO2 cuts of at least 10% and 80% in terms of total emissions during practical paddock tests.

And when fuel the engine was produced with bio-methane from digesting crop residues and farm-grown energy crops – as New Holland envisages long term – CO2 emissions are virtually zero.

The futuristic wrap-around styling for the bodywork on third generation models was due to the need to hide bulky gas tanks.

And in starting this process, the New Holland design team also took the opportunity to explore other possibilities too, including bonding the large panes of glass to the cab pillars as on current cars.

Adding a ‘floating’ roof installation maximised visibility horizontally and upwards when using a loader, the methane powered variant was taking on a well advanced look.

Bonding frameless glass to the cab frame minimises interruptions to the all-round visibility

New Holland T6.180 methane tractor specifications

Engine power  kW/Hp                132/180 maximum

Rated power    kW/hp                107/145  

Rated engine speed rpm                  2200  

Max. torque Nm                                  740

Cylinders/Displacement                6/6728

Transmission                                Electro Command (40kph) 16×16

Transmission                                Electro Command (40kph) ECO 17×16

Transmission                                Electro Command (40kph) Creeper 32×32

Transmission                                Electro Command (50kph) 17×16

Hydraulics Max. lift cap.                    7864 kg

The tractor’s FPT six-cylinder engine develops 132kW (180hp) and 740Nm of torque but with 30% lower running costs and virtually zero emissions when fuelled with farm-grown and digested energy crops

History behind New Holland’s Methane powered tractor

The CNH Industrial business unit has pursued its Clean Energy Leader strategy for more than a decade, being the first manufacturer to offer 100% compatibility with biodiesel in 2006.

The company went on to produce a hydrogen-fuelled tractor in 2009 and creating a propane-fuelled tractor in 2012 that continues to be developed in partnership with the Propane Education & Research Council.

Carlo Lambro, New Holland Brand President, added: “We have pioneered sustainable, innovative solutions for some 14 years.

“We developed the Energy-Independent Farm model, showing how a closed-loop between agricultural production and energy generation can make farming CO2-neutral, or even carbon negative – with significant benefits for our customers.

“In 2021 we are taking a further step into turning this into a reality, as our methane-powered tractor enters the New Holland range.”