Is Hydrogen The Future Of Heavy Machinery?

One of the biggest discussions in the construction industry, as well as in fields such as agriculture and mining is how these industries could fit into a greener world.

With pledges from many countries to lower carbon dioxide emissions to a net-zero level, radical ideas are needed to transition away from fossil fuels such as diesel and find more sustainable alternatives.

One of these is hydrogen, and JCB became one of the first heavy machinery manufacturers to have successfully created a modified engine that runs on compressed hydrogen fuel.

This has fuelled speculation that there is the potential to keep the same performance and the same trade workwear without affecting the environment.

JCB’s effort is still a prototype, however, however it develops the same power and torque figures as a Dieselmax 448, would cost the same price to buy and could even be retrofitted to existing machinery.

What makes it unique is that whilst other manufacturers are focusing on electric vehicles, either in the form of plug-in hybrids or hydrogen fuel cells, with others experimenting with sustainable biofuels as well, JCB are focusing on hydrogen combustion.

This was done to maintain compatibility and keep as much of the existing engine’s profile intact and allow for an easy switch or even retrofitting. However, there is still one major issue that could delay the transition.

Hydrogen fuel is currently fairly limited, and a considerable proportion of the hydrogen fuel that currently exists is produced from natural gas in a process with considerable carbon emissions.

However, green hydrogen is being phased in using a process of electrolysis, using excess electricity to split hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water.

Time will tell whether hydrogen will become the future, but research breakthroughs have continued to appear that make the fuel increasingly viable.