JCB has announced it is investing £100m on a project to produce super-efficient hydrogen engines – and has revealed a hydrogen-powered JCB Loadall prototype.

A team of 100 engineers is already working on this exciting development, with the recruitment of up to 50 more engineers underway as JCB targets the end of 2022 for the first machines to be available for sale to customers.

The wraps have already come off a prototype hydrogen-powered JCB backhoe loader and a second JCB machine, the Loadall telescopic handler, was unveiled at a central London event attended by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. JCB’s hydrogen technology was also on show this week in the Green Zone at COP26 in Glasgow as world leaders debated measures to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions.

The company has emerged as a leader in zero-emission hydrogen technology at a time when governments around the world unveiled strategies to develop the infrastructure needed to support the use of hydrogen to drive down CO2 emissions.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Great British manufacturers like JCB are developing innovative solutions to slash greenhouse emissions and advance the UK’s green industrial revolution. It was fantastic to see JCB’s super-efficient hydrogen engines, which could overhaul UK manufacturing, help us to rapidly reach our climate targets and ramp up the UK’s hydrogen economy, an exciting area that will be essential to tackling climate change, creating new jobs and attracting investment.”

JCB has manufactured engines since 2004, producing them at plants in Derbyshire and in Delhi, India. This year it will celebrate a major milestone with the production of its 750,000th engine.

Its chairman, Lord 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.

“It does mean we will carry on making engines, but they will be super-efficient, affordable, high-tech hydrogen motors with zero CO2 emissions, which can be brought to market quickly using our existing supply base.”

* JCB is also involved in plans to become the UK’s largest supplier of green, renewable hydrogen. In a deal announced this week, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) looks set to become the largest supplier of green hydrogen in the UK after signing a multi-billion pound deal with construction giant JCB and Ryze Hydrogen.

JCB and Ryze will purchase 10% of FFI’s global green hydrogen (GH2) production, starting in early 2022. FFI’s green hydrogen production is anticipated to grow to 15m tonnes of GH2 per year by 2030, accelerating to 50m tonnes per year after that.

Under the partnership, FFI will lead the green hydrogen production and logistics to the UK market, and JCB and Ryze will manage green hydrogen distribution and development of customer demand in the UK. JCB's Lord Bamford said: “This is an important step towards getting green hydrogen to the customer.

"It’s fine having an engine powered by green hydrogen, but no good if customers can’t get green hydrogen to fuel their machines. This is a major advance on the road towards making green hydrogen a viable solution.”