Where farming meets the future

Posted by British Gas in Innovation, Renewable Energy

It looks like a prop from a blockbuster science fiction film, and you could quite easily imagine one of Hollywood's A-list stars sat at the wheel, dodging explosions left right and centre as they embark on a high-speed chase through some far-flung futuristic metropolis…

In actual fact you're far more likely to find this particular set of wheels chugging its way through a pastoral field in the middle of the rural countryside, and you certainly aren't likely to find any movie stars taking it for a spin. What you're looking at here is the latest in modern farming technology – a tractor powered entirely by hydrogen.

Hydrogen-powered tractors aren't a totally new innovation; prototype designs of this kind have been floated in the past to help cut down the farming industry's dependence on diesel, none of which have taken off successfully. However, this is the first design that actually rivals a conventional diesel tractor in terms of its haulage capability, meaning it's no longer a compromise between performance and environmental impact if you want to make the switch to hydrogen.

New Holland, the company behind this latest agricultural eco vehicle, claim it can perform all the tasks of a regular tractor without producing any of the harmful fuel emissions, making it (in theory) the ideal piece of farm equipment. However, as with all hydrogen-powered vehicles, there are the sizeable issues of where this hydrogen is obtained from (creating fuel-ready pure hydrogen is an energy intensive process), and how to maintain a reliable source of fuel when there is no established distribution network in place.

How, for instance, is a farmer on a remote plot of land in the middle of the open countryside supposed to ensure a steady supply of hydrogen to their property, given that the gas must be stored in sealed containers at extremely high pressure in order to prevent it from leaking?

For the moment, New Holland are proposing to roll out these tractors on farms that are equipped to produce their own hydrogen on-site, eliminating the need to transport it long distances. However, it is likely that there will need to be some extra effort put into making hydrogen more widely accessible if the technology is to be expanded to smaller operations around the world.

What do you think? Could we be looking at the future of modern agriculture, free from a dependency on fossil fuels?

For more information on New Holland's hydrogen powered tractor, the NH2, visit their official website

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