Tractor and Agricultural machinery manufacturer New Holland has revealed that it plans to exhibit a prototype fuel cell tractor, at the giant SIMA agricultural show in Paris next February.

While fuel cell technology is being developed by a number of car makers, a joint venture project between Iveco and New Holland (both part of the Fiat group) is thought to be one of the first involving a tractor manufacturer.

The Farmers Weekly publication notes that details are still sketchy at this early stage, but assuming the tractor uses the same technology being developed for cars, it will run on a hydrogen-powered fuel cell.

Fuel cells consist of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. Oxygen (from the air) passes over one electrode and hydrogen (stored in compressed form in the fuel tank) passes over the other, generating electricity in the process.

This electricity is stored in a lithium-ion battery and fed to the driving wheels by an electric motor.

The main drawbacks of fuel cells are their expense and the cost of producing the hydrogen in the first place, though New Holland suggests that the hydrogen could be generated on-farm by electrolysis of water, with the electricity required for that coming from wind, solar or biomass sources.