Presenting at ConExpo 2023, JCB unveiled internationally the fruits of its labour in the net-zero sector over the past three years, paving the way for the rest of the world to follow suit.
Founded in the UK in 1945 and still bearing the acronym of its founder Joseph Cyril Bamford, agriculture and construction manufacturing powerhouse JCB creates machines for consumers in industries ranging all the way from defence through to waste and recycling.
It’s little wonder then, with an internal target of zero carbon emissions in construction and external pressures from European carbon regulations, that the multinational corporation switched its attentions to how it would conduct business in a net zero environment.
One group of engineers, two prototypes and an A$188.5 million investment later, and the results were laid bare for all to see at ConExpo 2023, the world’s biggest construction exposition in Las Vegas.
JCB formally introduced its super-efficient hydrogen engine on the stage at the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE), held alongside ConExpo 2023.
“The JCB engineering team has made enormous strides in a short space of time to develop a hydrogen internal combustion engine,” said JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford. “As the first construction equipment company to develop a fully working combustion engine fuelled by hydrogen, I’m delighted we are now able to present this technology on the international stage.”
Already focusing its attentions on providing electric and battery powered technology on smaller machines like the 525-60E telehandler, Bamford says JCB felt larger machines required an alternative that would leave them unencumbered by the constraints of a constant recharge.
Because of their power usage, larger cranes and excavators that work multiple daily shifts would require larger batteries – and it is precisely because of their constant usage that they would not possess the necessary downtime required to charge.
“Hydrogen also offers a potential solution to the challenge of batteries on larger machines,” he added. “It allows for fast refuelling and is a mobile fuel solution, allowing fuel to be taken to the machine.”
JCB has been operating a few prototypes since July 2020, namely in its backhoe loader and Loadall telescopic handler machines.
It was this success that inspired the company to then invest a further A$188.5 million into the hydrogen engine program.
“The JCB engineering team has gone back to first principles to completely re-design the combustion process to work for hydrogen,” said Bamford.
“In doing so they’ve secured JCB’s place in history as the first construction equipment company to develop a fully working combustion engine fuelled by hydrogen and steered us towards the production of a landmark 50 hydrogen combustion engines.”
Although it will be a while before we see efficient hydrogen combustion engines in telehandlers landing on Australian shores, the path forward to a net-zero future is becoming ever so clearer, with JCB indicating that anything can be achieved with the right amount of care, technical ability, and investment.
“The unique combustion properties of hydrogen enable the hydrogen engine to deliver the same power, the same torque, and the same efficiency that powers JCB machines today, but in a zero-carbon way,” said Lord Bamford.
“It is a technology which is cost effective, robust, reliable, and well known throughout not just the construction and agricultural industry, but the whole world.”