Valmet do Brasil’s “Alcool” series featured three models: the four-cylinder Valmet 88 and the six-cylinder Valmet 118 and 118-4

1983 Valtra is a veteran when it comes to researching alternative fuels

Valtra has carried out a lot of research and testing with alternative fuels in both Europe and Brazil for several decades already.

In 1980 a Valmet 702 tractor running on wood gas was developed together with Vakola, the Finnish State Research Institute of Engineering in Agriculture and Forestry. This prototype was used to develop wood gas technology, which was soon thereafter introduced in Brazil in the early 1980s when the country was experimenting new types of renewable energy. Alcohol fuel eventually became the preferred choice, and Brazil became the world’s leading producer of ethanol.

Between 1983 and 1986 Valmet do Brasil manufactured a total of 1700 alcohol fuelled tractors, primarily for the country’s sugar cane plantations that could supply their own fuel. The engine operated on the diesel principle: there were two injection pumps, a line pump fed in the ethanol, but combustion occurred by spraying a small amount of diesel fuel with a distributor pump. This project eventually dried up when oil was discovered off the coast of Brazil.

Back in Finland, research was carried out into the use of alcohol in diesel engines in the late 1980s. The technique was to add an ignition improver to the ethanol to help it combust under compression. Otherwise the alcohol engines operated on the Otto principle with spark plugs. The findings were positive, but Finland lacked the necessary infrastructure.

Testing began with the first generation of biodiesel in the beginning of the 1990s. Valmet’s managing director at the time Matti Sundberg tried to promote the use of fuel by personally lobbying the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Although little came of these efforts, the company’s biodiesel readiness was rewarded in several export markets, especially Austria and Germany.

One episode around this time involved the Elsbett engine, which ran on pressed plant oil. This “raw oil engine” was fitted to a Valmet 605, which was then test driven at the Statens Maskinprovnigar research institute in Uppsala, Sweden. Today this engine is on display in the engine plant’s museum.

Today Valtra is active in two fields of research. Valtra do Brasil is developing the next generation of alcohol engines that operate on the diesel principle. This still involves the use of diesel fuel to combust the fuel mixture, but new cost-effective solutions for feeding in the alcohol are being sought by using the latest components from the automotive industry.

Valtra’s Suolahti factory in turn is studying the use of biogas in diesel engines using the dual-fuel technique, in which combustion occurs with a small amount of regular diesel fuel or biodiesel. The biggest impediment to the use of renewable fuels in tractors is the lack of relevant legislation within the EU. Advances made by individual countries do not seem probable. Another problem is the lack of infrastructure. Biogas is available from the existing natural gas network, but in most countries such a network is not very widespread. The future of farm- or village-based biogas reactors is uncertain. Swedish society is very supportive of renewable energy forms, and southwestern Sweden already has a comprehensive natural gas distribution network.

Biogas tractors have been developed together with the best co-operation partners in the industry. AGCO Sisu Power’s generator plant Genpowex has developed a biogas power plant that operates on the same dual fuel principle and that would be very suitable for use by farms. Whatever energy solutions are adopted in the future, Valtra is ready to apply them.

Read more:

Valtra Dual Fuel tractors - The natural choice

Valtra to begin limited serial production of biogas tractors (2012)

The Valmet 702 wood gas tractor being test driven in 1980. It was calculated that consumption of dry logs would amount to 1.4 kilos per kilowatt hour

The Valmet 702 wood gas tractor being test driven in 1980. It was calculated that consumption of dry logs would amount to 1.4 kilos per kilowatt hour.

Valmet do Brasil’s “Alcool” series featured three models: the four-cylinder Valmet 88 and the six-cylinder Valmet 118 and 118-4

Valmet do Brasil’s “Alcool” series featured three models: the four-cylinder Valmet 88 and the six-cylinder Valmet 118 and 118-4.