China is well on the way to developing an autonomous tractor powered by hydrogen and fuel cells.
The Chinese are now also getting involved in future tractors. With the new e-tractor named ET504-H they want to position themselves accordingly in the market. They also want to make agricultural machinery more environmentally friendly.
Sporting a futuristic appearance, the model ET504-H tractor adopts 5G mobile communication technology, has a self-driving mode, and can be remotely controlled. The future tractor is co-developed by Luoyang Research Institute for Intelligent Agricultural Equipment Co., Ltd. ( CHIAIC) and Luoyang advanced manufacturing industry R&D base of Tsinghua University’s Tianjin Research Institute for Advanced Equipment.
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The largest Chinese tractor manufacturer YTO is also involved in the development. Some parts of the prototype were manufactured by YTO. YTO says that CHIAIC will continue to pour efforts into developing new energy unmanned tractors, get ahead in such key technologies as unmanned driving and electric control, and create new energy unmanned equipment in the field of agricultural machinery.
The ET504_H tractor has a main permanent-magnet, synchronous mid-motor and independent electric lifting and steering motors. The hydrogen fuel cell operates when the tractor does not require its full power, while under heavy load, the lithium battery will add further power supply. The electric driveline can deliver 50 horsepower with a maximum speed of 30 kilometers per hour ( 18 miles per hour).
The ET504-H tractor has been developed from the outset to be able to drive without a driver. For this purpose, the tractor relies on the 5G network from China Mobile and also uses GPS antenna, millimetre-wave radar and large data technology for remote control. This navigation technology can perceive the running state of the vehicle and surrounding working environment in real-time. It takes advantage of 5G features such as high speed, low delay and large connection volume, and combines them with intelligent unmanned cluster technology to effectively improve the reliability of agricultural machinery operations and provide consumers with higher quality services.
Here you can see the Chinese ET504-H tractor at work during one of the test sessions.
“With this tractor we want to give local demonstrations to show that an autonomous tractor running on hydrogen is possible in farming practice”, says Huang Shengcao, Deputy General Manager of CHIAIC. “The ET504-H tractor has now completed a series of trials in production and marketing. But due to current impact of the high battery cost, there is no clear sales plan yet. However, that can change quickly if the costs for the batteries drop.”
Research has been conducted for some time into agricultural tractors that run on hydrogen with fuel cells. New Holland Agriculture released its first ever hydrogen-powered NH2 tractor in 2009, which was after then in service on farms in Europe by 2012. But due limited availability of the fuel and high production costs , it has never made it commercially viable.