Fueling The Future – Hydrogen VS Electric Plant Machinery

used construction machinery

Whilst most plant machinery manufacturers are focusing their efforts on producing eco-friendly equipment. We take a look at the two big contenders for replacing traditional fuels. It’s time for hydrogen vs electric powered plant machinery.

As with most things, both have their pros and cons. But, with JCB investing in hydrogen power and Komatsu releasing a range of electric machines. We want to take a look at which offers the most potential.


Hydrogen is a clean fuel. It’s made up from hydrogen gas, which is produced from a variety of sources including natural gas, biomass, and water. Once hydrogen gas is produced, it can then be compressed and used as fuel. Vehicles using hydrogen fuel consume it through a fuel cell, which produces only water. As opposed to pumping out carbon and chemical fumes, making this a great clean alternative to fossil fuels.

Whilst there are many cars across China and Japan that are currently using hydrogen as their fuel source. It is yet to make its breakthrough in the UK and across Europe. Although, we have seen JCB making huge progress in terms of using hydrogen to power plant machinery. With their new hydrogen powered backhoe loader receiving special permission to be used on UK roads.


Electric powered plant machinery works by using an electric motor to power the machine rather than using fuel in a traditional combustion engine. The motor is usually powered by a battery. Which is charged by plugging the machine into a charging station. Some pieces of machinery are also able to be charged through regenerative braking. This is where the motor acts as a generator to recharge the battery whilst the machine is braking.

With many machinery manufacturers announcing the release of more and more equipment, electric seems to be the top choice for fuel alternatives. But could that be just for now? Will more manufacturers begin turning their focus to hydrogen power? Let’s weigh up the pros and cons.



The obvious advantage of using hydrogen in plant machinery over fossil fuels is that hydrogen fuel produces zero emissions. Which is a big win for the environment and helping to achieve the industries carbon reduction goals. Another pro is that hydrogen is quick to refuel. Taking the same amount of time as it would with traditional fuel. Refuelling can be made even easier thanks to mobile refuelling units such as this one from JCB. It’s also said that hydrogen produces more power than the batteries used in electric vehicles. Which will be something many people looking to buy construction machinery will favour. 


Although hydrogen produces zero emissions whilst it’s being consumed. The production of hydrogen fuel in the first place does produce some carbon emissions. Meaning it’s not completely carbon neutral. Another disadvantage is that elemental hydrogen is scarce. Making hydrogen fuel pretty expensive. As well as being difficult to get hold of due to limited infrastructure of hydrogen fuelling stations at present.



Apart from producing zero emissions, one of the other major benefits of using electric powered plant machinery is that it produces less noise than a traditional machine. This will be a great benefit to those using machines such as excavators in residential areas. Another great thing about electric machinery is that so many manufacturers are already producing these machines. With Komatsu announcing new electric diggers for 2023. As well as Volvo, Hitachi and CAT getting in on the action, there should be no shortage of electric machines to go round. Making them far more accessible than hydrogen machines currently are.


One downside to electric machinery is the charge time. Unlike hydrogen which can be refuelled as quickly as diesel, when using electric machinery you’ll need to factor in time for charging. Especially when you consider how long a machine will need to be working for. Getting enough charge for a 12 hour day could take quite some time. However, with a little extra planning this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

electric diggers


To summarise, we think both fuel alternatives show great potential. With each alternative fuel source being of benefit to different areas within the construction sector for different reasons. Both hydrogen and electric powered plant machinery will really help to cut down carbon emissions produced by the construction industry. We don’t think it will be long until seeing electric plant machinery on site becomes the norm. With hydrogen fuelled machinery following very closely behind.


International Plant Sales are industry experts when it comes to selling used plant machinery to the global market. All of our machinery is in great condition after having just one previous owner and being less than 5 years old. So, although we may not have the latest electric diggers or hydrogen powered machinery currently for sale, we can still offer you some excellent used machinery. 

To view our current stocklist, click here.

If you have any questions or require more information on any of our machines, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Information correct as of 21/03/23

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