JCB says its research shows that the new engine – based on material from JCB’s Dieselmax 448 four-cylinder engine but with substantial modifications at the top end – not only does not produce CO2, but also offers significant benefits through compared to electric and hydrogen fuel cell solutions. , both of which are considerably more expensive.
JCB’s hydrogen engine is naturally intended for its own off-road applications but, after successful initial tests on hydraulic excavators (which place far greater demands on engines than on cars and trucks), engineers at the company believe that they have a technology that can be applied to a much wider range of vehicles.
JCB Chairman Lord Anthony Bamford decided to set up a specialized hydrogen engine research team at the company’s research and development center in Derbyshire in July of last year, after meeting with increasingly concerned about the impending loss of piston engine expertise and infrastructure and the dissolution of a well-integrated supply. chain.
He explained: “We are no longer advocating for diesel; that horse ran away. Zero carbon emissions should be the goal, but we don’t think batteries and fuel cells are the only solutions. ”
Lord Bamford and his engineers believe they have more of a real world view than most others in the industry, as they have launched a very successful line of battery-powered electric excavators in recent years, and they have considerable field experience. 20-ton prototype excavators. powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The big advantages of the hydrogen engine, explained Tim Burnhope, Chief Innovation Officer at JCB, are that it can be put into production quickly and inexpensively, while existing ICE know-how and infrastructure will remain relevant. .
JCB’s prototype engine has an all-new intake system (lowered compression, new pistons, high pressure common rail fuel and port injection), but it is designed to match the performance and ride characteristics of the machines. existing.
When it comes to toxic emissions, even the “raw” exhaust from JCB’s experimental hydrogen engine contains less NOx than a diesel, even with the latest aftertreatment which reduces diesel pollutants by 98%.
Other metrics can reduce that to what Burnhope calls “zero impact level,” where the content is just too small to measure. The only significant exhaust emissions from a prototype JCB hydrogen engine that Autocar observed in action were puffs of steam at start-up.
JCB is planning further development of its hydrogen engine, but already has its eyes set on production.