JCB publicly unveiled its new port fuel injected, 4.8L inline-four hydrogen combustion engine (448 ABH2)—the company’s zero-carbon emissions solution for construction and agricultural equipment—at the Conexpo 2023 show in Las Vegas as part of the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE).
JCB is investing £100 million in the project to produce super-efficient hydrogen engines. A team of 150 engineers is working on the initiative and more than 50 prototypes have already been manufactured at JCB’s UK engine plant.
Prototype JCB hydrogen engines are already powering backhoe loader and Loadall telescopic handler machines. JCB has also installed one of the hydrogen engines into a 7.5 ton Mercedes truck—a retrofit which was completed in just days.
JCB has also unveiled its very own designed and built mobile refueling unit to take the fuel to the machines. The unit has enough hydrogen gas to fill 16 hydrogen backhoe loaders and is able to be transported either on the back of a modified JCB Fastrac tractor or on a trailer.
JCB’s commitment to reducing emissions goes back almost 25 years and the 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. In addition, JCB’s drive to reduce fuel consumption means today’s JCB machines use 50% less fuel on average than those manufactured more than a decade ago. This has saved 16 billion liters of fuel—equivalent to 53 million tons of CO2.
JCB has also been developing electric technology to meet customers’ needs for zero-carbon products. While battery electric is suitable for smaller machines which do less hours and typically use less fuel, larger machines have a higher energy requirement. This would result in larger batteries, which would take longer to charge, making them less suitable for machines which work multiple daily shifts and do not have the available downtime to recharge.
As a result, JCB has concentrated its development of electric machines on its compact range, including the 525-60E Loadall telehandler and the 19C-1E mini excavator—the world’s first electric mini excavator.
As part of its hydrogen development, JCB also investigated its use in fuel cells and in July 2020 unveiled the construction industry’s first hydrogen-powered excavator—a 20-ton 220X.
For the time being, JCB has come to the conclusion that fuel cells are too expensive, too complicated and not robust enough for construction and agricultural equipment. In challenging the JCB engineering team to think differently using technology that is around us in a zero-carbon way, the JCB hydrogen engine was born.
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. Hydrogen combustion engines also offer other significant benefits. By leveraging diesel engine technology and components, they do not require rare earth elements and critically, combustion technology is already well proven on construction and agricultural equipment. 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.—JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford