The European agricultural machinery industry can demonstrate measurable success in the field of climate protection. “Our environmentally friendly efficiency solutions make an essential contribution to addressing the issue of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter,” states VDMA Managing Director Dr. Bernd Scherer.
At this year’s leading industry trade fair, Agritechnica, agricultural machinery manufacturers are presenting a fuel reduction technology portfolio that is second to none. At the same time, the industry is by no means one of the larger CO2 emitters. “Here in Germany, agricultural machinery and tractors account for only 0.7 percent of total CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, we have a clear concept of our responsibility to make a qualified contribution to climate protection, since that is where the future lies,” explains Dr. Scherer.
The agricultural machinery industry has long been concerned with the question of fuel. Dating back to the beginning of the 1990s, an era when such commitment attracted little public response, fuel efficiency was already a high priority for development engineers. There are also economic reasons for this. After all, fuel consumption makes up a good 50 percent of tractor life-cycle costs. In recent years, however, a paradigm shift has taken place in engine and machine development.
From a physical point of view, in many areas the industry has already achieved the maximum possible results that can be obtained from engine optimisation. The future of fuel efficiency is thus seen in the overall optimisation of machinery and of processes in particular.
In a large-scale research project on “Fuel efficiency in agricultural machinery” funded by the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture, a highly qualified consortium of industry, scientific and association experts has succeeded in providing cross-manufacturer evidence that innovative machinery, intelligent process control and modern operating concepts can achieve considerably reduced yield-related fuel consumption in comparison with conventional processes.
“It is now time to reap the benefits of our efficiency strategy. Along the agricultural production chain, on balance we can speak of a clearly falling CO2 curve relative to the yield,” states Dr. Eberhard Nacke, Chairman of the project consortium. Combined work processes, digitisation, lightweight construction and precise engine management provide fuel savings in the order of 35 to 40 percent. Complex computer simulations, model calculations and empirically obtained data sets show that this range is practical. Retrospective and forward-looking reference points are provided by the years 1990 and 2030, respectively. The agricultural machinery industry is thus on an efficiency path that complies with Europe’s ambitious climate policy targets.
Furthermore, alternative fuels and drive systems, driver assistance systems and intelligent forms of machine and data management are current areas of development with the potential to achieve additional optimisation of the agricultural machinery CO2 balance. “If we take into account everything that is presently in the pipeline, we have every reason to look forward with optimism. One thing is certain: The agricultural machinery industry is one of the decisive enablers of future climate neutrality for agriculture,” states Dr. Nacke.
In order for the large portfolio of intelligent technological and process ideas to reach the necessary market penetration as soon as possible, VDMA considers accompanying policy measures at the EU level to be indispensable: “Incentive effects are proven instruments for ensuring the marketability of environmentally friendly technologies. In particular, we now need investment incentives for climate-friendly agricultural machinery and tractors, systematic CO2 pricing to increase the attractiveness of innovations, and technological openness so that the best ideas can become established competitively,” summarises Dr. Scherer.
Additional information about the research project and policy requirements is provided in the brochure More ouput, less CO2 – Saving fuel with innovative agricultural machinery, which can be downloaded at: lt.vdma.org