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JCB's hydrogen telehandler

JCB is to invest £100 million on a project to produce more efficient hydrogen engines.

The company is dedicating a team of 100 engineers to the project, with plans to recruit up to 50 more in order to meet the company’s target to have the first machines production ready by the end of 2022. As part of the announcement the company also unveiled a prototype of a hydrogen powered telehandler, which joins an existing backhoe loader prototype.

The company raised the profile of the unveiling and announcement by organising another event attended by UK prime minister Boris Johnson in central London. Filmed yesterday it was released this morning prior to his speech on the subject., The company will also have a display in the ‘Green Zone’ at the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow.
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JCB's hydrogen powered 7m/4.2t 542-70 telehandler prototype

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Anthony Bamford (L) supervises Boris Johnson refuelling the hydrogen machine

JCB chairman Anthony Bamford said: “Our sort of machinery will need to be powered by something other than fossil fuels. We make machines which are powered by diesel so we have to find a solution and we are doing something about it now. We are investing in hydrogen as we don’t see electric being the all round solution, particularly not for our industry because it can only be used to power smaller machines.”

“We will carry on making engines, but they will be super efficient, affordable, high tech hydrogen motors with zero CO2 emissions. Hydrogen motors have the potential to help the UK reach CO2 emissions targets more quickly.”

JCB began manufacturing its own engines in 2004, and produces them at plants in Derbyshire, UK and Delhi, India. This year it expects to build its 750,000th engine.

A family affair

Anthony Bamford’s son Jo, a JCB director, founded and owns hydrogen manufacturer HyGen Energy and distributor Ryze Hydrogen which recently teamed up with HyNet to accelerate growth in the sector. While HyNet supplies carbon capture hydrogen, HyGen has plans to build a major new facility to manufacture Green Hydrogen in the UK. Bamford also owns Northern Irish bus manufacturer Wrightbus, which he acquired from administration in 2019, the company is already building a hydrogen powered double deck bus.

Wrightbus is sensibly hedging its bets and has also launched a new battery powered bus. In a recent interview Jo Bamford was clear that it is too soon to see which of the two ‘clean’ technologies will eventually dominate, but also points out that on larger vehicles, hydrogen is potentially an easier solution and lends itself to vehicles that cover longer distances.