Hydrogen Powered or Electric Powered Agriculture Vehicles

Hydrogen Powered or Electric Powered Agriculture Vehicles

As the agricultural community look for a cleaner, alternative energy option, is hydrogen or electric set to become the future of farming to replace diesel? And, which will deliver the kind of performance associated with conventional diesel vehicles, both in the field and on the road?

With the industry facing pressure to meet net zero emission by 2040 and climate change reduction goals, sustainable cost-effective alternative fuels that provide optimum performance and zero emission for agricultural vehicles have their own advantages and challenges.

The alternative choices can be found in Hydrogen Powered or Electric Powered Vehicles. But which option are likely to give the best results, cost-effectively?

Hydrogen Powered?

Hydrogen to power commercial vehicles is a hot topic these days. The more efficient way to use hydrogen in tractors and trucks and buses is through the use of fuel cells and there are a number of manufacturers, particularly in Europe, who already have hydrogen-using fuel cell tractors available.

Fuel cells are not new and in fact have been around for more than 70 years. During the last 20 years they have been used in buses and in the last decade there has been a growing use in cars. The fuel cell generates less heat than an engine, offers a consistent output of power and doesn’t produce polluting nitrogen oxides, soot particulates or carbon dioxide.

Agricultural equipment powered with hydrogen will operate machinery all day, while the only emission coming from the exhaust is water. Energy-dense compressed hydrogen can be stored conveniently in a tank, allowing the energy to be stored for an extremely long period and the vehicle to be refuelled quickly. But a lack of H2 fuel infrastructure currently makes it unrealistic for agricultural enterprises unless they are able to produce hydrogen energy on site using electricity to power equipment and vehicles.

While fuel cells are the best option for hydrogen-powered vehicles and the technology mature, the next biggest issue is the expensive cost and may still be some time away from being commercially viable. With Toyota and Hyundai predicting that it will take five to ten years for hydrogen fuel cells to be competitively priced, are government subsidies needed to encourage production?

Electric Powered? 

Hydrogen’s competitor is seen as battery electric vehicles. Electrically driven vehicles are very efficient when it comes to energy consumption and the weight to power ratio / power density. Plus, experts in the agriculture industry believe there are a few barriers that are preventing this eco-friendly option from catching on.

However, take a look at all the research and it appears that fuel cell vehicles have a number of advantages over electric vehicles. They have a long working life and avoid the environmental issues of disposing of exhausted batteries, which gradually lose capacity during their life. Add to that, electric vehicles are usually heavier and take a long time to recharge – operating with one battery charge on average lasting 4.5 hours.

Although electric vehicles do not emit CO2, NOx or particulate matter and can be powered by renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar energy, the weight of battery required and the need for frequent recharging and an estimated third of the price higher than current diesel models, may overshadow using this technology.

It may be more likely that hybrid models take off before full electric models become widespread?

There is great potential for hydrogen fuel or electric in agriculture. With the agricultural sector looking for ways to convert to more fuel-efficient forms or energy and reduce costs, great strides have been made in trying to improve sustainable options. Which option will be the one to replace diesel?

Farm Energy NI will be launching a survey with our members in the coming weeks to find out your views. We actively encourage people to take part and provide your feedback. To find out more contact us on 028 79 30060 or info@farmenergyni.co.uk

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