Allis-Chalmers Fuel Cell Tractor

In its search to develop electric power through chemical reactions, Allis-Chalmers in 1951 began research on fuel cells. In October 1959 near West Allis, Wisconsin, this fuel cell tractor plowed a field of alfalfa with a double-bottom plow. Fuel cells produce electrical power directly through a chemical reaction, without heat, smoke, or noise. Unlike standard batteries, fuel cells do not store energy but convert chemical energy to electric energy.
This tractor has 1,008 fuel cells joined in 112 units of 9 cells each arranged in four banks that produced power to run a standard Allis-Chalmers 20 horsepower dc motor. Using a fuel cell to produce power was not a new idea in the 1950s. Over a century earlier, Sir William Grove originated the idea of a fuel cell that would run on hydrogen and oxygen. Over the years inventors experimented with a number of fuels and configurations. The search for an efficient and economical fuel cell unit continues.
Currently not on view
Object Name
fuel cell tractor
date made
Allis-Chalmers Company
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
place made
United States: Wisconsin, West Allis
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Agriculture
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


"My father Arthur Bates,who is 89 yrs old,was one of the main contributors that helped develop the fuel cell tractor for Allis-Chalmers. He still lives in the Milwaukee area."

Add a comment about this object