British Company Pioneers Hydrogen-powered Engine Production

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Climate adaptation British heavy equipment manufacturer leading the way in hydrogen-powered engine production

Renewable and zero-emissions power is the future.

JCB, A British heavy equipment manufacturer and the third largest construction equipment brand by volume, unveiled its hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine as a zero-emission alternative to lithium-cell powered EVs and fuel cells.

Diesel is considered a workhouse fuel and is the traditional fuel used by heavy vehicles and industrial machines because of its energy density compared to petrol or LPG. Still, it also has the highest carbon emissions among the three. Replacing diesel with hydrogen can result in zero emissions.

JCB thinks that by replacing diesel with hydrogen, they can still utilize the existing ICE technology, keep things simple, inexpensive, and, most importantly, emissions-free.

Talking about the company’s new hydrogen-powered engine Ryan Ballard, JCB’s engineering director, said that they did not just convert the combustion engine to a hydrogen one but reinvented a new one. They did so by keeping the “DNA” of the diesel engines, so it is familiar, having the same capacity and bottom end.

As a heavy equipment manufacturer, they know the challenges of electrifying an excavator or a backhoe loader because they have a lineup of electric and fuel-cell machines.

In the previous Harry Garage video, Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB, mentions why hydrogen engines could be more practical than an EV alternative. For example, an average car runs an average of 300 hours per year, but a heavy-duty backhoe runs ten times more, and in India, it could be up to at least 5000 hours per year. Lord Bamford says that having heavy-duty equipment run for a minimum of eight hours will require significantly more batteries, which means higher costs, more complexity, and an increased overall weight of the machine, posing a significant challenge to engineers.

Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines Vs Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Although both use hydrogen as fuel or to power a vehicle, in the case of Hydrogen ICE, it burns hydrogen, like it does a diesel or gasoline in an internal combustion engine that is nearly identical to a traditional spark-ignition engine. On the other hand, fuel cell hydrogen vehicles (FCEVs) work like electric vehicles by using hydrogen-generated electricity.

However, when it comes to heavy equipment and high-load machines used in agriculture and construction industries, internal combustion tends to be more efficient than FCEVs, which makes it a more ideal and efficient choice.

A known disadvantage of hydrogen engines is that they produce nitrogen oxide or NOX because of the high operating temperatures in the machine, to which engineers at JCB found a clever way to avoid running the engine at high temperatures by using a lean mixture of fuel. In addition, because hydrogen is three times more energy dense than diesel and gasoline, they can get the same torque without running the engine too rich, emitting no NOX. Another way to reduce NOX is through an advanced active emissions control technology system, called selective catalytic reduction, in newer generation diesel-powered vehicles and equipment.

Hydrogen ICE engines are less popular than their hydrogen fuel cell counterpart and more so than EVs, and there are reasons for this.

First, EVs are becoming a trend, and government incentives lean more on electricity than hydrogen.

Producing hydrogen is not cheap, and it has to be green hydrogen to achieve its purpose as a zero-emissions fuel. There are many ways to produce hydrogen; its primary challenge is to reduce the cost of technologies to make hydrogen competitive with conventional fuels.

Ongoing industry and government research and development are finding solutions to keep costs down when it comes to the production and distribution of hydrogen.

The video below explains how JCB’s hydrogen technology is close to production and why it is the future for all heavy machinery.


JCB is moving to hydrogen power for all their big machinery. Here’s why. (2023, March 6). Harry’s Farm. . Retrieved from

Hydrogen Production and Distribution (n.d.) U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from

Nebergall, J. (2022, January 27). Hydrogen Internal Combustion Enines and Hydrogen Fuel Cells. Cummins. Retrieved from

This Hydrogen Combustion Engine Is The EV Alternative We’ve Been Waiting for – HotCars. (2023, March 8). Hydrogen Central. Retrieved from

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