JCB sees green hydrogen engine as net-zero solution

JCB showed its hydrogen Fastrac refuller tractor and Loadall. The Power Systems plant in Derbyshire, UK, has produced over 50 hydrogen engines since 2020.

JCB believes that different machines and markets require different fossil fuel alternatives to get net zero. New Holland’s T6 methane CNG tractor is available and its T7 LNG tractor is nearing completion. JCB, however, has prioritized hydrogen.

JCB wants a net-zero solution from green hydrogen. Unlike methane, hydrogen fuel combustion creates steam/water instead of CO2. Hydrogen belief underpins JCB’s Road to Zero effort. JCB found hydrogen the best alternative fuel after considering many others. The company installed a Nissan fuel cell on a 20t X series digger in 2019.

In July 2020, the corporation challenged itself to produce a hydrogen-fueled combustion engine that would run like a diesel engine and replenish like one. Hydrogen engines ran through December 2020. JCB said first-principles engineering was needed to create the hydrogen combustion engine.

Two years later, the Derbyshire engine production line had produced over 50 engines. The outcome is a patented zero-CO2 hydrogen gas-fueled combustion engine.

The engine looks like a diesel engine. Spark plugs, induction system, pistons, and cylinder head are the main distinctions. Engine bottom ends are mostly unchanged. Clean refueling takes minutes.

In summary, common rail injection at low pressure injects hydrogen gas and air into the chamber. Before combustion, a variable geometry turbo injects air. JCB powertrain engineering director Ryan Ballard says hydrogen-specific spark plugs ignite the mixture at a lower temperature for a CO2-free burn.

A 1:100 hydrogen-to-air fuel mix is essential to combustion. Fuel-to-air combustion lowers temperature. The steam management system keeps combustion cycle water vapour from the engine. Water-resistant oil is utilized. JCB is considering “green” fossil-fuel-free oils for the future. JCB introduced a mobile refueling bowser to deliver fuel to machines.

The hydrogen gas engine needed to be refueled like 97% of JCB’s diesel bowers. JCB’s hydrogen bowser can refill 16 backhoe loaders. The machine’s storage tanks fill in minutes after the tube trailer decants hydrogen gas. A modified Fastrac tractor or trailer can transport the hydrogen bowser. Hydrogen engines fit existing equipment because they look like diesel engines.

JCB emphasizes that a hydrogen-powered Loadall has equivalent power, torque, and reaction to a diesel one. JCB says run time with the present tank configuration is equivalent to the diesel-powered Loadall.