Alternative Fuels

Ricardo supports CNH Industrial with development of biomethane-powered tractor

Ricardo supports CNH Industrial with development of biomethane-powered tractor
Photo courtesy of Ricardo

The diesel tractor is the backbone of many farming operations worldwide. With its requirements for high power and torque, as well as versatility, it is understandable that diesel fuel is currently the fuel of choice for this ubiquitous agricultural workhorse. Biomethane, however, is a fuel source that is increasingly being harnessed by many medium- to large-scale farming operations, through the process of anaerobic bio-digestion of waste vegetation. While much of the biomethane produced by such units is used in renewable energy generation schemes, a clear potential pathway exists to produce sustainable fuel for tractors and other powered agricultural equipment, thus displacing at source petroleum diesel fuel that would otherwise be used.

CNH Industrial – one of the world’s leading capital goods companies – is partnering with exhaust after-treatment technology specialist Eminox and thermal management and ceramic coating specialist Zircotec in the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) UK-funded Low Carbon Tractor (LoCT) project, which aims to design and demonstrate a commercially viable agricultural tractor capable of operation on sustainable locally sourced biomethane, while conforming to the latest European and U.S. emissions standards.

CNH Industrial has contracted Ricardo to support its contribution to the LoCT project, specifically for some of the design and development of the vehicle, working alongside CNH Industrial’s in-house team as the vehicle approaches readiness for commercial production implementation. Key challenges include managing the heat rejection and tuning of the engine to be able to operate successfully in an agricultural environment, and the optimization of vehicle-based compressed natural gas storage to fulfill operational needs while also meeting all necessary safety and visibility requirements.

“Ricardo is pleased to be supporting CNH Industrial on this important project,” said Steve Pendrey, Ricardo project director. “Biomethane offers an attractive alternative and sustainable fuel pathway to mineral diesel, for the decarbonization of farm-based operation of tractors and other equipment in the off-highway and commercial vehicle areas. By bringing our automotive and off-highway engines expertise to this exciting project, we hope to play our part in pulling forward this promising technology.”

”CNH Industrial is a global leader in the development and commercialisation of alternative propulsion technologies through its powertrain brand FPT Industrial,” said Alistair Walshaw, engineering project manager, CNH Industrial. “The company’s commercial vehicle brand IVECO is the market leader in on-highway natural gas commercial vehicles, and CNH Industrial’s New Holland Agriculture and CASE Construction Equipment brands are pioneering the use of natural gas in off-road applications.”

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