JCB have announced that they have discovered a way to fuel heavy machinery engines using a low-cost hydrogen fuel. The company claims that the new technology will help the transport industry achieve the UK government’s 2050 carbon neutral targets faster than other methods.
According to a report in Autocar, the hydrogen-fuelled piston engine is based on modified hardware of JCB’s Dieselmax 448 four-cylinder engine. It produces no CO2 and also has some significant advantages over battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell solutions. One of the most important is that it is far more cost-effective.
JCB initially developed the hydrogen engine to power its own range of off-road machines, but after successful trials, the company’s engineers think the technology would work in a range of other types of vehicles. Chairman Lord Anthony Bamford set up the research initiative at the R&D centre in Derbyshire last July.
Bamford was concerned about the loss of piston engine expertise in the face of a move away from polluting fossil fuels. He explained: “We’re not arguing for diesel any more; that horse has bolted. Zero carbon emissions must be the target, but we don’t believe that batteries and fuel cells are the only solutions.”
JCB have already launched a range of successful battery-electric diggers, and have real world experience of excavators powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The new engine technology can be brought to production in a short timescale and at an affordable level of cost.
The prototype is able to match the performance and driving characteristics of existing machines, alleviating any concerns about loss of power. It also cuts toxic emissions by as much as 98%. It is hoped that further adjustments can tweak this to a ‘zero-impact level.’
JCB is still planning additional development of the engine, but is set to begin production in the meantime, which is very encouraging news for the future of the planet.
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