New Holland has announced it will launch its methane-powered tractors in Europe this year, and North America won’t be far behind.

Mark Lowery, the company’s commercial marketing director, says U.S. and Canadian farmers can expect to see test and demonstration T6 model methane tractors later in 2021, with the first commercial sales targeted for late 2022.

RealAgriculture first reported on the methane-powered T6 model when it was unveiled at Agritechnica in Germany in 2019. The mid-sized 6-cylinder, 6.7 litre engine delivers 125 PTO horsepower and is a good fit for row-crop and livestock operations, including dairy farms, notes Lowery. In Europe, New Holland will be targeting the methane tractor to livestock farms where on-farm biodigesters allow farmers to produce methane to power the T6 tractor.

“It’s certainly new Holland’s vision to support the concept, and the reality of an energy-independent farm,” says Lowery. With its higher concentration of biodigesters, and more closed-loop systems, Europe is an obvious first choice to launch the tractor.

When it comes to the North American market for methane tractors there are similarities, but also key differences. In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Lowery notes livestock are an important market as well in North America but on-farm biodigestors have a much smaller footprint on farms across the continent. (Story continues after the interview.)

Lowery notes that digesters are more common on livestock operations in the western U.S, notably in California. There are also fruit and vegetable operations that can tap into the needed infrastructure. Non-agricultural opportunities also exist as many municipalities have the ability to access methane that is delivered in a compressed natural gas (CNG) platform to run vehicle fleets, including buses.

Lowery says New Holland believes there is potential for continued on-farm digester growth on farms across North America, but the company understands that not everybody is going to run out and invest in a digester, in order to get a methane tractor. Another part of the equation is on-farm fuel delivery from biomethane suppliers. New Holland is working on delivery models and exploring potential partnerships with suppliers.

In the interview, Lowery also discusses the cost and return on investment for T6 methane tractors, noting that the economics are based on a 30 per cent cost savings in fuel — methane versus diesel. Pricing has yet to be determined but New Holland understands that it needs to keeps cost “at a level that improves cost per operation and particularly cost per hour,” he notes.

Lowery says New Holland expects to have T6 units in North America this year to demonstrate and prove their viability on-farm. Retail sales are expected to commence in late 2021. “Between now and then you’ll see a lot more and hear a lot more methane talk,” he adds.

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