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Electric and hydrogen tractors greatly increase efficiency

Global Goals & Global Society
Electric and hydrogen tractors greatly increase efficiency

Together with German and Dutch companies, the university of Steinfurt (Germany) has developed an e-tractor. Solar panels ensure that the tractor can make its rounds in the field. The next step is to develop a tractor that runs on hydrogen.

It's windy this morning in Coevorden, the Netherlands. But that doesn't change Bastian van der Veen's good mood. The farmer is currently testing a somewhat unusual tractor - namely one with an electric drive. "We manage to drive in the field for six hours without changing the battery - and at 8 km/h."

Some resemblance to lunar vehicles

The e-tractor stands on a field. There are solar panels on the roof, and a large blue arc connects the front and rear axles. Between them hangs the respective agricultural machine. "That's where the least power is needed, which is very energy efficient," explains Eelco Osse. This setup makes the tractor look like a lunar vehicle.

E-drives still uncharted territory in agriculture

"The development of e-drives in agriculture is in its infancy," says project initiator Frederik Wanink, standing next to Osse and looking fascinated at the tractor. The important thing, he says, is that more farmers are convinced to make farming not only more efficient, but also more energy-efficient.

That's exactly what the e-tractor makes possible, he says. It is clearly different from a normal diesel tractor, he says: "A diesel engine normally has a maximum efficiency of 40 percent. So 40 percent of the energy that is in the diesel ends up in the field. With an electric tractor, you can expect to achieve 85 percent."

Next development stage: hydrogen-powered tractors

Now, in addition to the wind, there is also some rain. Bad weather is the cue for the e-tractor's biggest problem so far. Just like cars, the battery of an e-tractor will run out one day. That's why the University of Steinfurt and companies are working on a tractor that can run on hydrogen.

However, this development still needs time, says designer Osse. The fact that the Münster district government is supporting the project with additional funding motivates everyone involved - including Bastian van der Veen: "I'm really having fun with the tractor."

Not only did this project identify approaches to alternative energy production methods and thus work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, but one can also see how much the members enjoyed working together as a team, even across countries, and are now working on other projects as well. So the goal was not reached for them after achieving the first solution. They are now working on the further development of new innovations.


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