Eco-friendly vehicles making farms even greener

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All the talk of electric cars and emission-free vehicles is fine for city dwellers, but spare a thought for farmers, who know what gas-guzzlers really are.

Depending on usage, tractors can average as little as 10 miles per gallon (over 23 l/100km), as power rather than fuel efficiency is the primary concern for agricultural users.

For heavy users, this means an expensive fuel bill and a lot of pollutants - but one company thinks it's got the answer.

Later this month, a fuel-cell tractor concept is set to go on show in the US city of Boone, Iowa, with its maker New Holland describing it as the "zero emission tractor of the future."

The hydrogen-powered electric tractor is emission free and - rather pleasantly - virtually silent to operate.

The tractor can produce 106 hp/142 kW, and runs on hydrogen stored in tanks, which New Holland believes makes it ideal for farmers.

"Farmers are in a unique position to benefit from hydrogen technology," said a statement from the firm.

"Unlike many people, they have the space to install alternative electricity generation systems, such as solar, wind, biomass or waste, and then store that power as hydrogen."

With more stringent emissions standard on the way for heavy industrial vehicles in both Europe and North America, New Holland could be on to something, although it's not the only group to spot a gap in the market.

In June, researchers working under the European Union's "RAMseS" renewable energy project unveiled a solar-powered tractor, capable of doing the work of a conventional 40 hp/54 kW tractor.

The researchers calculated that their vehicle would release 57.16 tonnes of carbon dioxide over a 30-year lifespan, compared to over 757 tonnes from a standard tractor.

The vehicle is now being tested at an olive farm in Lebanon - where there is enough sun to make solar farming a reality.

http://www.newholland.com

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