JCB debuts hydrogen technology in India with eco-friendly backhoe loader

Transport minister Nitin Gadkari unveils prototype JCB backhoe loader powered by a purpose-engineered hydrogen combustion engine.

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 05 Dec 2023 Views icon27802 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

JCB’s £100 million project to produce super-efficient hydrogen engines had its Indian debut on December 4 in the presence of the Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari.

In its first public showing anywhere in the world, Mr Gadkari unveiled a JCB backhoe loader powered by a purpose-engineered hydrogen combustion engine. Developed by JCB in response to the urgent need to meet carbon emissions reduction targets, this industry-leading development is a key milestone on the path to decarbonising the construction sector in India.

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari takes a close look at the hydrogen-combustion-engine-powered JCB 3DX backhoe loader.
(Image: Nitin Gadkari / Twitter-X)

Speaking at the event in New Delhi, JCB India’s CEO and MD, Deepak Shetty said: “It is very fitting that this JCB 3DX backhoe loader, powered by a hydrogen combustion engine, is being unveiled in India just as COP28, the UN Climate Change Conference is getting underway in Dubai, UAE. As the world assesses its collective progress towards achieving its climate goals, JCB is showing the world that it has a practical and affordable technology already in place to decarbonise construction, here in India and across the world. We are proud that India should be the first nation in the world to show this prototype backhoe loader machine in public.”

Mr Shetty added: “India is making concerted efforts towards making hydrogen our zero-carbon fuel of the future; the National Hydrogen Mission is creating the conditions for a hydrogen ecosystem, which is essential for making a success of this cutting-edge hydrogen combustion technology. JCB India is proud to have taken the lead in introducing this technology to construction equipment in India. This has been made possible because of the vision of JCB Chairman Lord Bamford, who has been the driving force behind the development of machines that are powered by hydrogen”.

A team of 150 JCB engineers is working on the pioneering initiative to develop hydrogen combustion engines – and more than 75 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. Separately, JCB UK has also unveiled its very own designed and built mobile refuelling bowser to take the fuel to the machines.

According to the company, JCB’s existing drive to reduce fuel consumption means its diesel-powered machines use 50% less fuel today on average than those manufactured more than a decade ago. This has saved 16 billion litres of fuel – equivalent to 53 million tonnes of CO2.

JCB Chairman Lord Bamford said: “India has a real opportunity to put hydrogen at the very centre of its net zero future – it is a clean zero carbon fuel which can be produced from renewable energy. India is endowed with sun and water resources, the two key elements required for producing hydrogen. It is a fuel that allows for fast refuelling and is a mobile fuel solution, so fuel can be taken to the machine. Our machines work long hours, particularly in India, so minimising downtime to recharge or refuel is essential. As such, hydrogen is a perfect solution for India, particularly for the earthmoving sector.”

Lord Bamford added: “Fossil fuels are not the future. 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 equipment. It is a technology which is cost effective, robust, reliable and well known not just in the construction sector, but across the whole world.”

Mr Shetty concluded: “It’s only a matter of time before hydrogen becomes readily available in India for a variety of applications. The transition from diesel to hydrogen will be much faster than what we think, and JCB India will be ready. Our hydrogen combustion technology is already well-developed; many machines are currently under test, and JCB is the first construction equipment manufacturer to have unveiled working hydrogen combustion engines, and prototype machines powered by such engines.”

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