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Shapps challenges Bamford to accelerate hydrogen power

Energy secretary Grant Shapps has challenged JCB owner Lord Bamford to get his hydrogen-powered diggers on site within the year.

Grant Shapps visited JCB Power Systems in Derbyshire last Thursday to get the low down on how the construction industry is moving away from fossil fuels.

He then visited JCB’s Staffordshire proving ground where he drove a prototype hydrogen-powered JCBbackhoe loader and had a go at refuelling it.

JCB has built more than 50 prototype hydrogen combustion engines for use in construction and agricultural equipment and several machines are currently in testing.

Mr Shapps said: “This is a unique prospect that works well, and I've challenged JCB by the middle of next year – by 2024 – to be operating some of these on our roads and on construction sites. And JCB told me that it will be happy to try and achieve that objective, and good luck to them.”

Mr Shapps was hosted by JCB chairman Lord Bamford and chief executive Graeme Macdonald. He was told how JCB had launched a range of battery-electric compact machines, with more than 20,000 units already sold. He was shown how battery-electric technology was largely unsuitable for heavier equipment due to the higher energy demands, and the longer working hours of such machinery in remote locations where access to grid connections is limited.

Mr Shapps added: “JCB operates in two fundamentally quite difficult areas to decarbonise: construction and agriculture. I have to say they're making decarbonisation look easy, and I've been very impressed with what I've seen.”

Lord Bamford said: “It was a pleasure to show the secretary of state the great progress JCB’s British engineers are making in developing a zero-carbon solution to power our future machines. They need to be powered by something other than fossil fuels in the future and super-efficient, affordable, high-tech hydrogen combustion engines with zero emissions can be answer for the construction industry and agriculture. What’s more, they can be brought to market quickly using our existing supply base.”

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