Fred Chugg with Farm vehicle

Fuelling the future

The increasing pressure on agriculture to feed a growing world population while also reducing its environmental impact is driving growth of alternative fuels for farm vehicles. We take a closer look at two options that could help.

Electric ATVs

A Devon-based business has seen huge growth in interest in its electric quad bikes from customers across the world.

Eco Charger Ltd was officially founded in 2013 by farmer Fred Chugg. After losing his livestock in the foot and mouth crisis Fred launched a diversification business on the farm, turning it into a visitor attraction including quad biking activities. Increasing fuel costs alongside an interest in electric vehicles prompted him to develop his own electric quad bike after initially customising an existing machine. 

Now 10 years on the company produces a range of all-electric quad bikes (ATVs) from its Somerset factory supplying customers around the world via an international network of dealers. Last year, funding from the government’s General Export Facility helped Eco Charger to increase production. The additional working capital allowed the business to import larger quantities of bike frames and double its workforce to speed up production to help meet increasing global demand for its quads. 

The current Eco Charger range includes both 2WD and 4WD models. The most recent ‘Lithium Prestige’ models have lithium-ion batteries which have increased the mileage range up to 110km. Like the other Eco Charger models they can be charged from a normal domestic plug socket. 

As well as zero emissions, one of the main selling points of the 100% electric quad is its quietness, says Jon Hourihan, Market and Dealer Development Director. “Many people are surprised at how quiet our electric quads are which makes them ideal for farms with livestock or horses and for estates or farms wanting to encourage wildlife. 

“Yet despite their quietness they are powerful workhorses that offer great performance and do exactly what you need them to do.”

Hydrogen technology

Developers of a system that enables vehicles to run on a combination of diesel and hydrogen believe it could help reduce fuel use by up to 25%.

The HydroGen can also reduce emissions by up to 80% according to Yorkshire-based Water Fuel Engineering. Put simply, the electrolyser inside the HydroGen ‘splits’ water into oxygen and hydrogen by passing an electrical current through distilled water. The combined mixture of the gasses, called oxy-hydrogen is then introduced to the fuel mixture. This oxy-hydrogen is injected into the diesel engine and results in more efficient combustion meaning less fuel is used and emissions are reduced.

“Oxy-hydrogen functions as an additive to conventional fuel and enhances engine performance,” explains Alexander Nenov, Deputy Managing Director for Water Fuel Engineering. The results from trials in various environments and involving a variety of vehicles have revealed that it can reduce emissions (particulates and smoke) by 70 to 80%. “We recommend measuring the emissions before we install to get comparisons,” says Alexander.

Fuel savings vary from 10 to 25% depending on driving style and the work performed. Other benefits include cleaner engines as oxy-hydrogen continuously cleans the engine from carbon residue which can make vehicles feel more powerful, he says. “This also has the potential to reduce maintenance costs. The only consumable is distilled water and clients typically refill once a week,” he adds.

Having had success in farm-based trials in Scotland (part of the Scottish Government’s Farming for a Better Climate project) the team from Water Fuel Engineering installed the HydroGen unit on a New Holland CX6080 combine harvester. Believed to be the world’s first hybridisation of a combine, the vehicle will continue to use diesel but with the addition of oxy-hydrogen.

“Our technology directly addresses the need to decarbonise and is the ideal solution for those who wish to continue using their existing vehicles without harming the environment whilst saving on fuel,” concludes Alexander.


drones used for farming

Future Farming

Farmers are currently seeing the biggest changes in agriculture for more than 50 years. As a mutual insurer, we’ve stood by South West farmers since 1903 and through our Future Farming Programme, we are helping our Members and the wider farming community navigate the changes ahead in this transformative time. 

Future Farming Programme