NARUSHI NAKAI, Nikkei staff writer
OSAKA — Kubota aims to bring the world’s first hydrogen-powered fuel cell tractor to market as early as 2025, Nikkei has learned, as the Japanese manufacturer eyes growing Western demand for zero-emissions machinery.
The Osaka-based company is developing medium to large fuel cell tractors ranging from 50 to 100 horsepower. They are expected to be priced around 40% higher than leading diesel-powered alternatives, though details have yet to be determined.
Compared with electric cars, fuel cell vehicles have struggled to achieve mass-market appeal. But agricultural equipment requires much more power than passenger cars, and fuel cells let them operate longer without the added bulk and cost necessary in an electric-vehicle battery of that size.
Kubota plans to have a prototype of its fuel cell tractor in 2023, with an eye toward the American and European markets.
Rivals like U.S.-based Deere & Co. are emphasizing electric vehicles. Kubota also plans to offer electric versions of small and midsize models.
Tractors and similar equipment tend to be used in a specific location, so hydrogen could be delivered in tanks directly to their operators instead of through an extensive network of hydrogen fueling stations. This, in turn, could allow fuel cells to catch on in farming equipment ahead of other types of vehicles.
The agricultural, fishery and forestry industries are responsible for around 4% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Japan, according to its Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Of this, about 30% comes from operating agricultural equipment and other activities that burn fuel.
Japan is among the countries targeting net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.