More aluminium in agricultural tractor of the future
The agricultural tractor is going to be compact and electric and completely autonomous in the future. And just as with e-cars, light weight will be important for electric tractors. I see aluminium as a strong contributor to this development.
Heavier tractors use proportionally more diesel fuel and emit more and are more apt to cause side-effects like soil compaction. This is where – and why – smaller, self-driving e-tractors are coming into the picture.
The benefits of going smaller are clear:
- Low or no fuel consumption
- Low or no emissions
- Reduced risk of soil compaction
- Reduced risk of human injury
- Farming becomes a 24-hour process
- Lower operating costs
More savings with lighter tractors
Tighter environmental regulations related to fuel consumption and emissions are already impacting the way diesel-driven tractors are being built. This is great for the environment and great for the farmer, because tractor fuel remains a substantial operating cost for farmers.
Cost reductions are one of the drivers for the industry, and you can reduce fuel costs (and consumption) in several ways. One is lightweighting. But today, tractors are not optimized in terms of weight.
This is why I see aluminium as a contributor to tomorrow’s tractor.
Smaller and more agile tractors
OEMs are already looking closer at aluminium for their agricultural equipment, mainly where weight reduction is critical. As an example, the German company Krone developed a maize header for one of its forage harvesters with cast aluminium gear housings for the header drives. They saved about 120 kilograms in weight, which allowed them to put on a larger header.
The tractor cabin, or cockpit, is another area where aluminium can save weight. The metal also provides strength and stiffness, and resistance to corrosion. And it is relatively easy to combine aluminium with other materials and technologies, such as electric windows.
Aluminium applications in tractors
Walter Mauser GmbH and Fritzmeier GmbH are European companies that already are developing tractor cabins built with extruded aluminium solutions.
Other possible applications include:
- Aluminium frames
- Rollover protection systems
- Exterior parts
- Interior parts
Let me finish with a statement from Goldman Sachs, which reports that a fleet of smaller self-driving tractors would raise revenues for farmers while reducing farm labor costs. And that advances in agricultural technology — including autonomous vehicles — could result in farm yields potentially rising by more than 70 percent by the year 2050.