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Engine developments: a look at what could soon be powering your farm machinery

With several recent events showcasing the latest engines and power sources, James Rickard rounds up some of the latest developments and future thinking which could be finding its way into agricultural machinery.


Despite limitations placed on the manufacturing industry by the Covid-19 pandemic, engineering developments continue apace, not least the next generations of engine and powertrain technology.


Along with last year’s Agritechnica event, the recent Conexpo show in Las Vegas, US, gave us a glimpse at what future farm machinery may be powered by.


Several developments focus on conventional diesel power, while some look further ahead to hybrid technology and full electrification.



Following on from the development of a 6.7-litre structural, six-cylinder engine, Cummins has extended this family of products to include 3.8- and 4.5-litre, four-cylinder versions.


Like the 6.7-litre model revealed two years prior, these are designed to be used in tractors without the need for a chassis, using a structural block and oil sump. Already earmarked to be used in a range of tractors by a manufacturer, it has not yet been revealed which tractor manufacturer this is.


Between them, the new engines are capable of producing a power range from 90 to 200hp, complementing the six-cylinder which can muster up to 326hp. The 3.8-litre F3.8 alone is capable of up to 173hp, which has 33 per cent more power and 31 per cent more torque than its Stage 4, non-structural predecessor.


For up to 200hp, the F4.5, 4.5-litre is available. Externally, it is the same as the F3.8 and produces up to 780Nm of torque.


Helping to manage engine characteristics, both new four-cylinders are fitted as standard with a wastegate turbo, with the 4.5-litre able to be fitted with a variable geometry turbo for higher torque applications across a wider range of engine speeds.


As with the 6.7-litre version, neither of the new engines require exhaust gas recirculation to meet Stage 5 emission requirements, instead relying on the combustion process and exhaust after treatment such as selective catalytic reduction using diesel exhaust fluid.

John Deere Power Systems (JDPS)

John Deere Power Systems (JDPS)

Going big, JDPS has created its largest engine ever, with the development of an 18-litre, six-cylinder motor capable of more than 870hp, it says.  


It is not yet known where these engines will end up in agriculture, but when you consider John Deere (a JDPS sister company) currently relies on engines from other manufacturers for its high horse power machines, such as 15-litres Cummins engines for its 9570R (570hp rated) and 9620R (620hp rated) articulated tractors, and 24.2-litre Liebherr V12s for its largest three 9000-series self-propelled foragers (up to 970hp), you can imagine where they could go. Not to mention its new range of high capacity combines.


To manage performance, the new engine is equipped with a high pressure common rail fuel system and series turbochargers. To meet emission regulations is uses cooled exhaust gas recirculation, and also features a rear gear train designed to reduce noise as well as torsional and crank stress. It is also said to be simpler, fitted with fewer sensors, and easier to maintain with the addition of hydraulic lash adjusters to eliminate valve lash maintenance.


The new 18-litre engine will be manufactured at the John Deere Engine Works plant in Waterloo, Iowa. Production is planned to begin in 2022.


In addition, the firm has developed a new 13.6-litre engine, most likely to replace its current 13.5-litre unit as used in many of John Deere’s products. Similar to the 18-litre, it is said to be simpler, requiring less maintenance. Power rating for this engine extends from 402 to 684hp, with a peak torque of 3,050Nm.

Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT)

Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT)

No stranger to unconventional power sources, FPT, part of the CNH Industrial group, has been creating alternative powertrains for its sister agricultural brands, particularly New Holland, for many years. Most recently, this has seen the use of bio-methane to power tractors, now in production as a New Holland T6 tractor.


At Conexpo FPT lifted the lid on a new hybrid variant of its F28, 2.8-litre, four-cylinder engine, complementing diesel- and natural gas-powered versions.


The hybrid version comprises a diesel engine paired with an ‘e-flywheel’. Unlike many hybrid systems which store energy in batteries, this version uses a second flywheel, which is driven by electrical energy created by the diesel engine. When required, the spinning flywheel’s energy can then be fed back into the drive train.


It is a system which is ideal at compensating for peak load demands on an engine, such as loader work. During work, the diesel element of this engine can produce up to 74hp, while the electric motor/e-flywheel adds 27hp of continuous power and 40hp of peak power. In reality, this means machines, such as loaders or small tractors, could be fitted with an engine smaller than normal, with peak loads taken care of by the electrical elements, says the manufacturer.

Maximum torque of the engine is 375Nm, with oil service intervals of 600 hours.



Using its latest compact 74hp, 2.8-litre, four cylinder Syncro engine as a base, Perkins has developed three different hybrid versions of the engine; hybrid-electric, hybrid-mechanical and hybrid hydraulic.


In principal, all three systems are designed to do the same thing; recover, store and discharge energy. This allows the power units to run in one of three modes, depending on which way energy is routed; pure diesel power, boost (using stored energy) or recovery.


  • Hybrid-electric: This incorporates an electric machine and battery within the engine system. As the machine brakes, the electric system can recover the energy and store it within the battery. When required, the battery can then supply energy back into the engine via a motor to provide additional power.Equipment needing a sustained level of boost for a longer period of time, such as a telehandler, would benefit from the electric hybrid system, which in this case would realise up to a 20 percent fuel economy saving for the operator.


  • Hybrid-mechanical: As the machine brakes, the system mechanically stores the energy. When required, the system can then supply energy back into the engine via a clutch mechanism to provide additional power.For equipment with un-predictable and variable speed duty cycle the mechanical hybrid system can be used to provide an additional 30 percent of engine power when required, helping to deliver considerable fuel savings and engine downsizing capabilities. Products in scope here would include tractors and telehandlers. 


  • Hybrid-hydraulic: This incorporates a hydraulic pump and pressure accumulator within the engine system. As the machine brakes, this pump can recover the energy and store it within the accumulator. When required, the accumulator can then supply energy back into the engine via the pump to provide additional power.For equipment with un-predictable and variable speed duty cycles, the hydraulic hybrid can be used to provide an additional 30 percent of engine power when required, helping to deliver considerable fuel savings and engine downsizing capabilities. Products in scope here would include harvesters and wheeled loaders.

According to Perkins, no one solution will fit all applications, which is why the company has developed several avenues. In addition, it says the hybrid technology can be applied to all of its engines.



Also upping the power levels, Kubota has started the development of its first six-cylinder engine. The S7509 has a displacement of 7.5-litres and is capable of producing up to 300hp. It continues on from the development of the firm’s recent five-litre, 200hp, four-cylinder engine, the V5009 announced in 2017.


Neither have turned up in any of its tractors yet, but while the firm has recently revealed a 190 to 210hp M8 tractor for the North American market, built by Buhler Industries in Canada, it points toward what could be in the pipeline for future tractor developments, particularly in Europe. Currently, the largest Kubota tractor available in Europe is the M7173, with 170hp (rated).


To meet stage 5 emission regulations, the new engine uses a combination of technology, including selective catalytic reduction and a diesel particulate filter. Mass production is set to begin in 2023.



Deutz continues to build on its electric offering, this time with the recent showing of a JLG telehandler powered entirely by electric.


The concept, which was developed in collaboration with JLG features a compact 360 volt drive system. This uses a split drive comprising two 40kW electric motors; one for powering the drivetrain and one for the hydraulics.


As is typical for electric engines, the system delivers instant torque, says Deutz, offering more performance.


Supplied by Deutz, the battery offers 42kWh of capacity. A 6.6kW charging system can restore the battery charge to 80 percent within four hours.


As and when the drive system will go into production is still to be announced.

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