Development of autonomous and alternatively powered machines is an ongoing area of focus for the agricultural equipment industry, a key customer market for fluid power. Doing so can help to improve the safety, productivity and efficiency of farming operations.
These are important areas of engineering focus for global equipment manufacturer CNH Industrial whose New Holland Agriculture and Case IH brands have developed prototype and market-ready machines demonstrating these capabilities. For instance, at the 2016 Farm Progress Show — an annual U.S. agricultural equipment and technology event — Case IH unveiled its cabless row crop tractor prototype while New Holland showed its autonomous concept which still featured a cab to provide farmers with the flexibility of riding in the tractor still if desired. Both concept machines demonstrated what was feasible at the time with autonomous technology and what the future of farming could look like.
At the 2023 Farm Progress Show, both brands have unveiled new machines demonstrating further advancements in automation as well as alternative energy — an area in which New Holland in particular has been working over the last several years with its methane powered tractor and other machine developments.
New Holland Launches All-Electric Tractor with Autonomous Features
The New Holland T4 Electric Power is an all-electric utility tractor with autonomous features. According to the company, the tractor is designed to help create more efficient field operations for farmers.
A lithium-ion battery pack and full-electric drivetrain powers the tractor, delivering 74 hp (55 kW) rated power and 65 hp (48 kW) PTO power. The tractor is able to provide the same power outputs as a traditional diesel-powered machine while minimizing maintenance and fuel costs due to the use of an electric power system. As the tractor is intended for various low horsepower applications, it is estimated to provide 4 hours of average runtime. In low-energy demand applications, though, this could be extended up to as much as 8 working hours.
Per New Holland, the tractor features a rear electro-hydraulic PTO, drawbar, multiple rear remotes, mid-mount valves and a 725LU mechanical self-leveling front loader. The increased amount of electronics in the machine help to improve control and precision of machine movements, helping to reduce cycle times and thus increasing efficiency.
Use of a quiet electric motor and replacement of the diesel engine enables the tractor to be used in noise sensitive environments such as in buildings or near animals and people.
Three driver-assistance features are part of the automation technologies included on the T4 Electric Power:
- Follow Me Mode
- Invisible Bucket
- 360 Degree Awareness.
Each of these provide some level of automation to ease operation for farmers, helping them be more productive and potentially overcome labor issues. Making the tractor easier to use makes it easier to put operators of various skill levels into the cab and get them quickly up to speed on utilizing the machine.
New Holland expects to make the tractor commercially available in the North American market in early 2024.
Case IH Unveils Electric Farmall Tractor
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of its Farmall brand, Case IH is bringing to market its Farmall 75C Electric as a demonstration of what's head for the agricultural equipment industry. The tractor is designed to provide performance similar to that of a diesel engine-powered machine and offers a 4-hour average run time.
Like other electric machines, the tractor offers quiet, zero-emissions operation that can benefit a range of farming applications.
"We know there are parts of the country looking toward electric to maintain vineyards, clear airfields or manage small herds of livestock and our electric tractor will meet these needs. For 2024, the Farmall electric tractor will be released in specific markets," said Joe Miller, Case IH Global Product Marketing Manager for Tractors, in the company's press release announcing the unveiling of the 75C Electric.
The Farmall 75C Electric has many of the same features as the New Holland T4 Electric Power including a rated power of 74 hp, fast charging capabilities, digital technologies such as Follow Me Mode and more.