The 1959 Allis-Chalmers Fuel Cell Tractor
Put aside your Toyota Prius, cast off your Honda Clarity and say vamoose to the Chevy Volt. One of the pioneers of the alternative fuel movement was a farm tractor built half a century ago.
In 1959, Allis-Chalmers debuted a concept tractor powered by a fuel cell. It had a 20-horsepower (14.9-kilowatt) motor that converted chemical energy from a mixture of gases into electrical power to run without smoke or noise. It had 1,008 cells on board -- the largest operational fuel-cell unit in the world at the time -- and could haul 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms), enough to pull a multiple-bottom plow.
The company demonstrated the futuristic machine at work in an alfalfa field in Wisconsin on Oct. 15, 1959, and then promptly donated it to the Smithsonian Institution, which retains it in its collection. The work Allis-Chalmers did with fuel cells was later used in the Apollo missions to the moon, but funding cuts meant the company's fuel cell program was over by 1970.