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Cummins: A century of challenging the impossible

This year marks 100 years of diesel engine development and production for Cummins, which is today listed as a Fortune 500 company, employing 54,600 people worldwide. As EU Stage V emission compliance comes into effect, here we look at past and present Cummins innovations.

Cummins: A century of challenging the impossible

Even though the implementation of emission regulations for off-highway vehicles has been less visible to the public than the clean-up procedure for diesel-powered cars and commercial vehicles, diesel engine emission compliance has been a core consideration for engine manufacturers for almost four decades.


Throughout this time, UK farmers have seen the introduction of a range of new technologies, including electronically controlled engine devices and control systems, but what was innovation in the decades before emission control?


Cummins was founded in 1919 by a 31-year-old farmer’s son from Indiana named Clessie Cummins, supported by banker W.G. Irwin.

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Clessie Cummins and the Packard limousine.
Clessie Cummins and the Packard limousine.


A century of firsts


Mr Cummins was a visionary, who recognised the benefits of using technology developed by Rudolph Diesel at the end of the 19th century. The 6hp single-cylinder Hvid was Cummins first engine, which was manufactured under licence and included Mr Cummins’ improved ignition control. A mainstay for farm pumps and workshops across the USA, more than 2000 Hvid engines were manufactured at Cummins’ historic Cerealine Mill.


Although agriculture was the foundation for Cummins engines, Mr Cummins soon began innovating for on-road vehicles.


In 1929, the Cummins Model U engine was installed into a Packard Limousine; the first car in the USA to have a diesel engine and one of the earliest diesel-powered cars in the world.


The Packard drove more than 800 miles from Indianapolis to New York in the first ever long distance diesel trip in the USA.


Fast forward to the 1930s and it was the Cummins Model U engine which powered the first diesel agriculture crawler tractor in the USA, a six-ton Allis Chalmers Monarch 50. Known as ‘Neverslip’, due to its strong traction over difficult ground, the crawler tractor was used for farming, logging and road work.


In another first, Cummins Number 8 race car became the first diesel-powered vehicle to reach 100mph, running at Daytona Beach, Florida, with a race-modified Model U four-cylinder 85hp engine.


In the late 1950s, Cummins 8.1-litre and 12.2-litre engines were successfully installed in the world’s first articulated tractor, the Wagner TR. With power to all wheels, higher traction enabled faster work for larger farms.


In 1958, Mr Cummins filed a patent for the famous Pressure Time fuel system. The patent detailed ‘two cam-driven plungers, one for timing the fuel charges into and out of a fuel pumping plunger chamber’. It would be the foundation for today’s common rail fuel systems.


Throughout the decades, Cummins became renowned for its innovative partnerships, and 1977 brought the 600hp 19-litre Cummins-powered ‘Big Roy’ prairie tractor. Manufactured by Versatile, the 8x8 articulated drive was the world’s biggest tractor for prairie farming.


Today, there are more than 20 agricultural equipment manufacturers around the world that specify Cummins engines, which the company offers in capacities ranging from 2.8 litres up to 19 litres for agricultural applications.

Line-up of Cummins’ stage V engines.
Line-up of Cummins’ stage V engines.

Clean diesel technology


Cummins continues the legacy of its founder, with the announcement of developments including EU Stage V emission compliance, alongside higher machine capability and without the use of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).


The changeover to Stage IV emission compliance in 2014 required a more complex emission system than the previous Stage III B systems. However, the assumption a Stage V engine would therefore require an even more complex emission system could not be further from the truth.


Cummins’ philosophy for Stage V compliance focuses closely on the exhaust after-treatment system to maximise available power and reduce complexity. This has enabled Cummins engineers to produce a lightweight, compact, fully integrated design, which is simpler and more reliable than previous EGR-based systems.


With Stage V, Cummins is already one step ahead of many of its rivals, according to marketing communications director Steve Nendick.


He says: “Cummins has worked really hard to be at the forefront with its Stage V programme. The engines have been redeveloped, with a particular focus on our combustion performance recipe.


“Essentially, this has been a refinement process, using modern electronic control systems and a combination of thermal technologies to deliver more with less.”


Cummins’ Single Module™ after-treatment system comprises a diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter (DPF) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technologies, supported by an ammonia catalytic converter.


Cummins claims one of the key benefits of its Stage V agricultural engines is that they no longer use an EGR system on engines up to and including 12 litres in capacity, making them simpler and easier to install. At Stage V, Cummins X15 engine will use cooled EGR with a DPF and SCR.

100 years of Cummins

  • 1919 : Cummins is founded by Clessie Cummins and financier W.G. Irwin, manufacturing its first engine for agriculture applications

  • 1929 : Clessie successfully installs his diesel engine into a Packard limousine

  • 1930 : Cummins Model U, which was the first US diesel to have all working parts enclosed, powers the first diesel crawler tractor

  • 1935 : Cummins Model H 125hp diesel engine replaces petrol in the Buckeye land drainage and pipeline trencher

  • 1959 : Cummins powers the Wagner TR – the first articulated tractor in production

  • 1977 : A 19 litre, 600hp Cummins engine powers Versatile’s Big Roy – the largest prairie tractor of its time

  • 1992 : Powered by a Cummins 205hp C8.3, the Tigercat 726 feller buncher set a record of 234 tons of timber in an hour

  • 2004 : A Case STX Quadtrac set a world ploughing record of 766 acres in 24 hours. Powered by a 565hp QSX15 engine, the Quadtrac ploughed non-stop for 24 hours

  • 2006 : A JCB Fastrac powered by a Cummins QSB 155hp engine achieved a world spraying record, covering 257 acres in an hour

  • 2015 : The most powerful John Deere forage harvester was launched, powered by a Cummins QSK19 832hp engine

  • 2016 : Cummins launches its full Stage V line-up

  • 2018 : Cummins launched its innovative Stage V B6.7 structural engine, achieving a 31 per cent increase in torque from the last model

  • 2019 : Cummins celebrates 100 years of innovation

The next 100 years


Evolving to become a global power solutions leader, Cummins has invested heavily into hybrid technology, with the purchase of lithium-ion battery manufacturers Brammo Inc and Johnson Matthey Battery Systems, as well as Efficient Drivetrains, a Silicon Valley-based electric and hybrid powertrain company.


This has enabled Cummins to integrate its engines with batteries to develop new transmission and control systems.


The first example of this technology for the off-highway market was revealed in April 2018, when Cummins introduced its Hybrid Power Plug-In (HPP) power- train concept.


Operated by a 3.8-litre engine driving a generator and modular battery packs, the HPP (formerly REEV), is suitable for a wide range of agriculture and construction equipment.


This kind of ‘hybrid’ technology is well accepted in automotive circles, but are we likely to see electric or HPP-powered tractors on UK farms in the near future? The answer, according to Mr Nendick, is that it will most likely depend on the duty cycle.


He says: “While electrification has tremendous promise, it is arguably not suitable for all applications. The major considerations when deciding on the right powertrain technology are duty cycle, battery capacity and charging capability.


“It is likely we will see fully electrified power used in lighter duty machines, at least in the short-term. For example, mini excavators rather than power intensive farm equipment at peak harvest.


“Hybrid technology, such as the HPP, offers the advantage of electrified power with an ultra-clean diesel back-up.


“Blending energy use between the engine-generator and the battery to best suit needs means the concept can be applied to a wider variety of equipment.”


Cummins’ immediate priority is to continue working with various trac- tor manufacturers to develop power solutions which are suitable for specific customer applications. Cummins is clear diesel engines are here to stay for the foreseeable future, complemented by alternative technologies.


Mr Nendick says: “Diesel is the most energy dense liquid fuel available and adv- ances in engines, emissions control technology and cleaner diesel fuels have led to some remarkable environmental gains.


“In the past 25 years, for example, there has been a 95 per cent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, a key contributor to smog.


“Diesel engines are also proving to be a good platform for hybrid powertrains and we could see their integration with other types of fuel and/or propulsion sources.”


Power solutions


As customers adopt different power solutions for different applications, Cummins is uniquely prepared to help manage their fleets through a range of power solutions and its global service and support network.


One thing is clear: Cummins and its customers will continue to challenge the impossible for the next 100 years.

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