JCB, a leading construction equipment company, has unveiled its innovative £100 million project aimed at producing super-efficient hydrogen engines. The project has been developed by a team of 150 engineers who have already manufactured over 50 prototypes at JCB's engine plant in the UK. The project was officially launched at the Conexpo 2023 show in Las Vegas as part of the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE). JCB's Chairman, Anthony Bamford, is leading the project, which aims to develop JCB's hydrogen technology, the zero-carbon emissions solution for construction and agricultural equipment.
The hydrogen engine has been designed from scratch by the JCB engineering team, which has completely re-engineered the combustion process to work with hydrogen. As a result, the team has achieved two major milestones: securing JCB's place in history as the first construction equipment company to develop a fully working combustion engine fuelled by hydrogen and steering the company towards the production of a landmark 50 hydrogen combustion engines.
JCB's commitment to reducing emissions goes back almost 25 years, and its latest diesel engines designed to comply with European Stage V regulations have already delivered a 97% reduction in NOx emissions since 1999 and a 98% reduction in particulates. JCB has also been at the forefront of electric technology development, with its compact range, including the 525-60E Loadall telehandler and the 19C-1E mini excavator, being the first electric mini excavator in the world.
While battery electric is suitable for smaller machines, larger machines have a higher energy requirement, which would result in larger batteries that would take longer to charge, making them less suitable for machines that work multiple daily shifts and do not have the available downtime to recharge. As a result, JCB has been examining future fuels that deliver zero emissions, leaving no stone unturned. The search for a mobile fuel that can be taken to the machine, ensuring maximum uptime and fast refuelling, has led JCB to consider HVO, biogas, E-fuels, ammonia, and hydrogen.
Hydrogen was chosen as it is a clean zero-carbon fuel that can be produced from renewable energy, and it also offers a potential solution to the challenge of batteries on larger machines. The JCB hydrogen engine delivers the same power, torque, and efficiency that powers JCB machines today, but in a zero-carbon way. Hydrogen combustion engines offer other significant benefits, including not requiring rare earth elements and leveraging diesel engine technology and components. The technology is cost-effective, robust, reliable, and well-known throughout the construction and agricultural industry.