Hybrid tractor from H2Trac drives, hydrogen version is on its way

Photos: Bob Karsten
Photos: Bob Karsten

At H2Trac in the Netherlands a whole new tractor is being developed: the EOX175. This tractor stands out, in part, because of its hydraulic track width adjustment and a diesel-electric drive system.

The young company H2Trac, based in Arnhem, the Netherlands is working on a new tractor that differs from a traditional tractor in many ways. To name a few: hydraulic track width adjustment, diesel-electric drive and four-wheel steering. A first model is almost ready for use and is being tested on an empty building plot at the Kleefse Waard industrial park, where H2Trac has its office and workshop.

The basis of the tractor was formed with row-crop cultivation in mind. That’s why the tractor is equipped with hydraulic track width adjustment (2.25 to 3.20 meters). The first tractor, a hybrid, is currently being tested. And the parts for a second tractor have been ordered. That second tractor has in fact been sold, to Stadsboerderij Almere (Fl.). That tractor is being equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell, as demanded by the buyer.

Also read: Why hydrogen is the future farm fuel

Battery and generator

The hybrid tractor we‘re watching in action drives back and forth equipped with a fixed-tooth cultivator to take measurements. EOX stands for “electric ox,” and this diesel-electric system tractor has to compete with a 175-hp tractor. It is a strange sensation: when the cultivator sinks deep into the loose sandy soil, the diesel engine does not react. It remains idle for a few moments, until the battery charge level drops too low. Only then does the engine automatically increase its speed to drive a generator and recharge the battery. When the tractor needs to work hard, a loud, monotonous “hum” is heard from the electric motors.

The battery is located roughly between the front axle and cab in the frame and has a capacity of 40 kWh. This should make it possible to drive for just under an hour (with a maximum of 40 kW of power consumption) without turning on the diesel engine. When the EOX is running purely electrically, it is not as quiet as an electric car or forklift truck; you can still hear the hydraulic pump that is needed for the steering, among other things.

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The axles slide past each other; here, the right axle section slides in front of the left axle section.
The axles slide past each other; here, the right axle section slides in front of the left axle section.

Wheel motors

The four wheels are each equipped with 22kW wheel motors, which means that almost 120 hp is available. According to Paul van Ham, the driving force behind the hybrid tractor, the electric drive train has a loss of about 10%. If necessary, the electric motors can briefly deliver 250 hp in boost-mode. “Actually, it’s like this: an electric motor is infinitely strong, until it burns out, which of course we prevent. We speak of a 100% boost,” Van Ham explains.

A large radiator has been placed on the right side of the tractor to cool all electrical components and the generator, which is under the cab. An FPT four-cylinder lies back-to-back between the rear axle and the cab. That is, the distribution side is at the front. The cooling fan is therefore located horizontally behind the cab.

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The four wheels have a steering angle of 45 degrees, and this allows the tractor to do a pirouette.
The four wheels have a steering angle of 45 degrees, and this allows the tractor to do a pirouette.

Do a pirouette

Another special feature is that the tractor with extended axles (3.20 meters) has a steering angle of 45 degrees. Even more special: the tractor can do a pirouette. The front and rear wheels steer towards each other and the tractor rotates around its axis.

The lever you operate the tractor with comes from a Claas forage harvester, as does the whole cab. The driving speed is controlled by moving the lever – just like a hydrostatic system. There are now three virtual travel ranges for appropriate dosing. For example, a low gearing (0-2 km/h) is intended for coupling an implement. The EOX175 has a maximum speed of 40 km/h, and does not have front axle or cab suspension.

Lift with your smartphone

From the cab, there is a good view of implements – you can see through between the wheels and the base frame. The lifting slats themselves are hidden behind the engine cooling radiator (rear) and the engine cover (front). But you can also operate the lift with a smartphone. A special feature is that the cabin tilts backwards for maintenance (on the hydraulic pump). Just like a classic Schlüter can do, but with linear electric motors.

H2Trac also had to develop both the front linkage and the rear swingarm itself. Because of the higher than normal ground clearance (about 70 cm), the lifting slats have to travel a greater distance. A special feature is that the PTO is also electrically – and therefore continuously – driven, and you can theoretically buy one PTO and move it from the rear to the front and vice versa. Now H2Trac mounts a 60 kW stub axle, but if desired this can be an 80 or 100 kW electric motor (roughly 80 to 135 hp). In total then, if the tractor also has a front-PTO, it would be equipped with six electric motors.

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The engine block is located in the frame between the cab and the rear axle. Because of the high ground clearance (70 cm), H2Trac had to design the lifting devices themselves. This is because they have to cover a greater distance than normal. The power take-off is electrically driven.
The engine block is located in the frame between the cab and the rear axle. Because of the high ground clearance (70 cm), H2Trac had to design the lifting devices themselves. This is because they have to cover a greater distance than normal. The power take-off is electrically driven.

Prices

The asking price for this hybrid tractor is € 280,000, and for those who want it equipped with a fuel cell should expect to pay around € 420,000. This spring, H2Trac plans to test the EOX in practice, and then we will see whether this ultimate track tractor is worth the extra cost.

This is the view from the cabin. The hitch can also be operated with you smartphone.
This is the view from the cabin. The hitch can also be operated with you smartphone.
Karsten
Bob Karsten Editor for TREKKER magazine



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