Auga Group, Europe’s largest organic food producer, has developed a hybrid biomethane and electric tractor.
The four-wheel drive articulated Auga M1 tractor is unique because it solves two main obstacles that have so far prevented the world’s largest corporations from offering such equipment for professional use.
First the problem of refuelling and ensuring uninterrupted operation of the tractor throughout the working day. Currently, biomethane-powered tractors are able to operate for only 2-4 hours because the gas cylinders do not physically fit into the tractor structure. However, farmers need agricultural machinery that can work uninterrupted for 12 hours or more. With the M1 tractor, Auga Group in Lithuania says it has solved these problems.
The company’s patented design allows the tractor to accommodate larger biomethane gas cylinders. The Auga M1 tractor uses a hybrid biomethane-electric fuel system. When the tractor is running, an internal combustion engine powered by biomethane generates energy and transmits it directly to the electric motors that spin the wheels.
When operating under normal conditions that do not require high power, the tractor stores the generated energy in the batteries. Such a system does not waste energy in low load conditions, uses a relatively small but efficient motor and is able to deliver tremendous power when needed. The Auga M1 tractor can thus deliver a maximum engine power of approximately 400 hp. These solutions allow the tractor to work for up to 12 hours according to Auga.
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The second obstacle to the wide-spread adoption of biomethane-powered tractors is the underdeveloped biomethane refuelling station infrastructure. The Auga group solved this problem by offering quick and convenient gas cartridge replacements.
“Three years ago, when we first calculated worldwide emissions, we saw that as much as 30 per cent of them come from the use of fossil fuels on farms. There were simply no solutions to change that. That is why we have taken the lead in developing technologies that will allow us to create a new standard for sustainable agriculture and drastically reduce pollution throughout the food value chain. The first result of this work is the M1 biomethane and electric tractor,” says Auga’s general manager K. Juščius.
According to him, the choice of biomethane as an alternative fuel was not accidental – it is one of the greenest types of biofuel. Methane, collected from livestock waste and converted to biomethane, offsets more emissions per unit of energy in its production and use cycle than it emits.