JCB unveils hydrogen digger

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Lord Bamford and his son Jo have unveiled their hydrogen-powered excavator for construction. 

In one of engineerings more impressive double acts Jo, who runs Ryse Hydrogen and Wrightbus, and his father, the JCB chairman, spent two years working on the design, and a further year testing the prototype. Its creation will enable JCB to lead the sector on zero and low-carbon technologies and continue Ryse Hydrogen’s push to kickstart the UK’s hydrogen economy.

The debate rages as to whether it is the world’s first hydrogen-powered excavator: Volvo’s 2014 EX2 was equipped with a lithium ion battery as a main source but offered the possibility to add a fuel cell to extend the autonomy.

The 20-tonne JCB 220X excavator powered by a hydrogen fuel cell has been undergoing rigorous testing at JCB’s quarry proving grounds. 

“The development of the first hydrogen-fuelled excavator is very exciting as we strive towards a zero carbon world,” said Lord Bamford. “In the coming months JCB will continue to develop and refine this technology with advanced testing of our prototype machine and we will continue to be at the forefront of technologies designed to build a zero carbon future.”

Jo Bamford said it was a game-changing addition to JCB’s fleet and a strong message for Britain’s green economy.

“I grew up on the shop floor at JCB and have spent many years working on a prototype to help take our companies into the future,” he said. “I truly believe hydrogen is the UK’s best opportunity to build a world-leading industry which creates UK jobs, cuts emissions and is the envy of the globe.”

Power for JCB’s prototype excavator is generated by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to create the energy needed to run electric motors. The only emission from the exhaust is water.

The development comes after JCB made manufacturing history last year by going into full production with the construction industry’s first fully electric mini excavator, the 19C-1E. JCB has also extended electric technology to its innovative Teletruk telescopic forklift range with the launch of an electric model, the JCB 30-19E.

Through constant innovation and design improvements, JCB has also been leading the way on clean diesel technology to meet Stage V EU emissions regulations and has almost eradicated the most harmful emissions from its latest range of diesel engines. Nitrous Oxide (NOx) is down 97%, soot particulates down by 98% and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions down by almost half.

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Saul Wordsworth is deputy editor of the iVT brand - which includes digital and print editions of a quarterly magazine and Off-Highway Annual, as well as ivtinternational.com. He is a keen cyclist and lives in north London.

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