Powered by propane on the farm has new meaning with New Holland’s launch of the third-generation Alternative Fuels Tractor prototype powered by propane autogas. The propane tractor was a hit during the recent Farm Progress Show. I got all the details about the cutting-edge tractor from New Holland’s Mike Cornman who said the concept tractor can also be adapted to run on bio-propane, bio-methane or methane itself. Cornman said they decided on propane as the preferred alternative fuel, in part, because of some of its advantages.
One key factor when you compare a tractor burning propane versus a tractor burning diesel, says Cornman, includes a 20 to 40 percent savings on fuel costs per year. “It’s also producing up to 80 percent less pollutants up in the atmosphere with propane versus diesel. So it really fits well with us being the clean energy leader standpoint while being able to provide a benefit to the operators utilizing propane rather than diesel.”
New Holland’s baseline tractors are the T-6 series tractors and when they compare diesel versus propane, they found very similar performance in terms of horsepower and engine torque. The company has provided several customer clinics where they have conducted various exercises that included pooling, front end loader use, among others, and found that the propane powered tractor performed just as well as compared to a tractor fueled by diesel. “So there’s no real sacrifices that an operator would be giving up in purchasing a propane tractor over diesel,” Cornman adds.
I asked Cornman how a grower would fill the Alternative Fuels Tractor knowing that many growers have propane tanks on their farms for use in other capacities. He explained that one challenge of the propane concept tractor is that it takes more space for the propane autogas, i.e. the tractor needs a larger fuel tank. So New Holland designed a fitted tank to carry the propane. In addition, Cornman says the fill technology has evolved to a quick-fill type nozzle making it easy for the operator to re-fill the tank with propane.
Cornman said that moving forward New Holland will hold several more customer clinics to get additional feedback and they will also assess market opportunities. He also says that growers interested in the propane autogas powered tractor can call their local dealer for more information. And while there is no set date on commercialization, Cornman anticipates the Alternative Fuels Tractor will go into production in the near future.
Learn more about New Holland’s Alternative Fuels Tractor concept by listening to my interview with Mike Cornman: Interview with New Holland's Mike Cornman on Propane Tractor