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Nebraska testing shows Steiger fuel economy gains

Now that 2012 model-year tractors with new Interim Tier 4-compliant (IT4) engines are making their way through testing at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab (NTTL), the results are starting to trickle in. Case IH’s Steiger tractors were among the first machines to be evaluated.

When Case IH management first showed the new IT4-compliant Steigers to the farm media in 2010, they promised the tractors would deliver lower operating costs, providing added value to offset the extra cost of the new technology. The NTTL test results confirm that promise has been fulfilled. The new-generation tractors have a reduced appetite for diesel fuel.

A recent press release from the company describes the NTTL test results for the 350- to 600-horsepower Steigers this way: “The Steiger 600 set the record for drawbar horsepower and fuel efficiency versus the competitions’ biggest tractor. Measured at maximum power in horsepower-hours per gallon, the Steiger 600 tested 8.4 per cent more fuel efficient than the Deere 9630 at maximum drawbar pull, and 10.5 per cent more fuel efficient at 75 per cent drawbar pull, maximum power.”

In fairness to John Deere, however, the 9630 isn’t their newest technology, and NTTL results for the new 9R tractors — replacements for that previous 9600 Series — aren’t out yet. But there aren’t many other tractors large enough for a fair comparison with the Steiger 600. “That’s the only thing we had in the market at the time,” explains Mitch Kaiser, marketing manager for Steiger tractors.

It’s clear, however, that the new FPT (Fiat Powertrain Technologies) IT4 engines that power the big Case IH tractors have raised the bar on fuel economy. Compared to the previous Steiger lineup, the 2012 models have demonstrated significant gains. “We’re five to seven per cent better in fuel economy numbers than we were on the previous (Case IH) Tier 3 generation of tractors,” Kaiser adds.

In drawbar performance tests, the model 600 Steiger posted the most impressive numbers of any tractor in the Case IH high-horsepower group. It developed 16.69 horsepower-hours per gallon during maximum load. At the same time it delivered 490 horsepower to the drawbar in fifth gear, with a ground speed of 8.78 km/h (5.46 m.p.h.). At 75 per cent load it produced 15.77 horsepower-hours per gallon. (See the full test report at http://tractortestlab.unl.edu/testreports.htm.)

“For one hour of operation on a Tier 3 Steiger 535, we would get 14.98 (horsepower-hours per gallon) of operation,” says Kaiser. “With the new 600, to talk about efficiency, we will actually pull 16.69 out of one gallon of fuel. So even compared to our previous tractors at less horsepower, we’re able to generate much improved fuel economy.”

Customer feedback relating to fuel consumption on working farms has also been positive, he adds. “We just had a customer cover 900 acres on one tank of fuel with a 550-horse Steiger pulling a min-till air seeder with an anhydrous tank behind it. “We’re pleased; he’s pleased and so is the dealer.”

The FPT engines rely on SCR (selective catalytic reduction) to meet IT4 emissions standards. That means they also consume DEF (diesel exhaust fluid). The rate at which it’s used up depends on a variety of factors. “It’s going to vary,” Kaiser says. “Big factors that affect DEF consumption are humidity, heat and cold, and it also varies depending on how you run the tractor. We said we’d be about five to six per cent. If you’re on a real heavy pull with high humidity and temperature, you might see eight per cent.”

By becoming only the second ag manufacturer to adopt SCR technology to meet IT4 standards, the company took a gamble that farmers would warm up to the idea of filling DEF tanks on farm equipment; but because many farmers are already using SCR engines in their on-road vehicles, Kaiser says Case IH customers didn’t seem to mind making the transition in the field. “It’s been a non-issue,” he says.

For the next-generation ag engines, the push for lower operating costs and further fuel economy improvements will continue. “We’re looking for fuel (economy) improvement to reduce operating costs with Tier 4B,” says Kaiser. “We already have a goal, but I can’t share that with you yet. We’re still tweaking it.” †

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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