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JCB unveils hydrogen engine at Conexpo

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



I thank JCB for the research, development and production of diesel engines that can run on H2 fuel. As you can see, it is possible to operate the internal combustion engines without fossil oil!
These conversions/additions to normal diesel engines are ingeniously simple and efficient!

I advise the EU and especially the German ministries to finally act and end this 100% BEV nonsense!

Green H2 and green e-fuels are little known in the EU and Germany because their politicians are too lulled to BEV. Unfortunately no technology openness like in the wide world outside of Europe!
In addition, all batteries/cells have to be imported from China and as you know, China and Russia are unfortunately allies against the free West! So how stupid are 100% BEV really? Think about it!!!
Have a nice spring day...


@herman, this only works if you have green hydrogen. If you are steam reforming it, you may as well use methane directly.
I am not sure f they will ever use this in anger, but they may get a decent harvest of patents along the way.
(And a combined methane / hydrogen engine wouldn't be too bad either).
I wonder what the NOx levels are like from the H2 engine....


Hi Jim

I was pleasantly surprised to find unusually comprehensive information on what JCB are up to with hydrogen, and why.

That does not include however precise information on how they are dealing with NOx, where I tracked down only that:

' As for toxic emissions, even the ‘raw’ exhaust from JCB’s experimental hydrogen engine contains less NOx than a diesel, even with the latest after-treatment that cuts diesel pollutants by 98%.

Further measures can reduce this to what Burnhope calls “a zero-impact level”, where content is simply too small to measure. The only significant exhaust emission from a JCB hydrogen engine prototype that Autocar observed in action were puffs of steam on start-up. '



And here is why JCB is going for hydrogen combustion, rather than batteries or fuel cells:


Why not batteries in the application:

I can't copy and paste, as it is protected, but JCB reckon for an electric Fastrak, whatever that is, for a 16 hour day the cost would be 4.3 times more than a diesel version, and weigh over 10,000 kg

Why not fuel cells:

Too complex and expensive to get the very clean hydrogen etc, provide additional power from batteries, etc
Three times diesel costs to buy, and more expensive to run.

I'd just note that HT PEM cells or SOFC can manage without very pure hydrogen, but they are not really on the table at the moment.

They reckon that they can pretty well drop in a hydrogen engine into the existing equipment in place of a diesel version, and fitted trial versions in a weekend.

Getting the hydrogen engine developed took quite a bit of time and money though.

We are talking the larger machines here.
JCB are happy with batteries for smaller machines in less demanding applications.


Here is the Royal Society of Chemistry on NOx and hydrogen engines etc:


The bottom line appears to be that others are less convinced than JCB that hydrogen engines have inherently low NOx to start with, compared to diesel.

It should be noted however that JCB are talking about their own engines, which they have spent considerable time and money developing, so their engines may perform better in this respect than the baseline where inherently low NOx is debated.

According to the RCS, low NOx relies on two trade offs:

Lower power output.

Increased costs for after treatment.

So if you want effectively zero NOx without using fuel cells, then you have to pay for it one way or another.

JCB reckon they have cracked it though on a commercial basis.


@dave, very learned response!
It will be interesting to see who is right on the NOx: JCB or the royal soc.
Note that JCB have skin in the game, while the RCS are just (very clever) observers, and the paper is 2 years old.


Hey Jim

As I note, the RCS are presumably talking about generic hydrogen capable diesel engines, which is not what JCB are doing,

So there is not necessarily a conflict between the two, with JCB saying that their basic engine without extra treatment has way lower emissions of NOx.

We need actual verified data on emissions, which we have not got.


@Dave, if JCB have solved the NOx from H2 diesel engines, they will have some valuable IP - in no uncertain terms.
But, as we have seen (with VW for instance), NOx is a slippery problem.



Dunno about the VW thing in detail.

They seem to have done something strange to decrease some emissions at the expense of more NOx, even compared to regular diesel engines:


Hopefully we are talking about way lower regular, un VW adjusted, diesel emissions as the baseline, not the VAG special stuff!

But no idea of what trade offs they did.


Hi Dave,
They had a "test detector" in software, and when they detected a test being performed (in a lab / garage), they used proper amounts of "ad blue" to their SCR so it removed the NOx as specified.
SO in test conditions, the engines were fine.
When they detected that they were not on a rig, they did not add any or anything like enough Ad Blue, and so the NOx was emitted as if there was not catalyst.
This enabled them to save space with smaller ad blue (Urea) tanks and removed the problem of having to fill them quite frequently.
or this


What I find incredible is how they expected to hide this "for ever" as they seemed to have no plans to do this.
And what did they expect to happen when they were found out ?
It struck me that they might have cheated for one or two years until they had a proper solution, but that never seemed to be the case.
here's a book on it.
Faster, Higher, Farther: The Inside Story of the Volkswagen Scandal


Jim, some vague memories are coming back - at my age, I usually have problems remembering what I had for breakfast - and the situation at VW seems to have been down to an 'efficient' top down command structure.

So the guys at the top decreed that emissions must be reduced, and sacked any engineers that could not hit target.

So the engineers turned out figures showing that they had done so, regardless of the reality.

Entertainingly, nothing seems to have changed at VAG.

They decided that batteries were the way to go, so aped Tesla

And the VAG engineers duly came out with cost and performance figures for batteries which showed that as the one, the only, the true solution.

Unfortunately for VAG, they are, or were, in the mass market, not in the Tesla market, where between subsidies granted on the basis that batteries could be truly competitive with ICE 'real soon' and in fact selling to the upper end and premium market, it looked competitive.

Since then, from level pegging in sales with the Toyota group, they are a couple of million cars a year down.

It is important in the mass market to mass produce cars.

Takes genius, but just as formerly VAG continue to crush any dissent from their engineers, who are simply tasked with making whatever fantasies the board have real, and get the sack for not adhering to the party line.

In spite of that, Audi continue to put out feelers indicating that they are not so opposed to fuel cells as the party line dictates, whilst their heavy trucking divisions simply say that if batteries don't work out for long distance, they have not got the funds to develop fuel cells, but will buy the technology in.

And it is supposed to be Toyota who are out of touch.

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