Could hydrogen and electric diggers replace diesel?

electric diggers

With the Climate Change Conference (COP26) fast approaching, the UK Government has just invested £620 million into electric vehicles, but what about the construction industry? As we know, plant machinery can cause a lot of pollution as they’re run on diesel. Would it be better to ditch the diesel for hydrogen or electric diggers?

Is electricity the future of construction?

As a part of the effort to make construction more sustainable, heavy machinery manufacturers are rolling out all-electric versions of traditional construction vehicles. The push for more sustainable construction practices has intensified in recent years. Electric machinery is now joining the ranks of electric vehicles as an eco-friendly alternative.

While hybrid electric machines have been available for years, all-electric models of excavators, forklifts and more are currently available all over the world. So what is so great about electric diggers?

When it comes to overall performance capabilities, all-electric machines are almost identical to their diesel counterparts. In fact, Volvo CE claim their electric excavator and wheel loader have the same specifications as their diesel counterparts. 

The biggest difference between electric and diesel equipment can be found under the hood. Instead of containing a diesel engine and cooling fan, electric equipment contains a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. 

How do electric diggers benefit us?

Switching to all-electric equipment benefits construction companies and the environment in more than one way. The biggest benefit is to the environment. Did you know that roughly 39% of the world’s CO2 emissions comes from the construction industry? 

As all-electric diggers are powered by lithium-ion batteries, we are slowly eliminating any need for fossil fuels. We’re now able to help curb climate change without adapting the way we work majorly.

Noise pollution is one of the biggest issues that affects the construction industry and its workers. Loud machinery creates unwanted noise for those living and working near construction sites, but can also jeopardizes the health of construction workers.

What’s more is exposure to constant loud noise for more than eight hours can be hazardous. Fortunately, electric diggers are much quieter than traditional diesel-powered excavators. Using electric machinery ensures construction sites are safer for workers.

Electric construction equipment also has huge benefits of reducing long term costs for construction companies. All-electric machines not only eliminate fuel costs but can also reduce overall operating and maintenance costs.

Lithium-ion batteries are virtually maintenance free, and electric machines typically have fewer parts than diesel models. This can reduce both the overall time spent on maintenance as well as the cost of replacing individual parts.

JCB reveal hydrogen-powered prototypes 

While all-electric machines seem to be taking off, there are some who have decided to opt for hydrogen-powered plants instead. Construction giants JCB have announced a £100m investment in zero emission hydrogen engines to replace diesel and electric diggers and machinery. 

The company made the announcement as they unveiled prototypes of a hydrogen-powered backhoe loader and telescopic handler. During the London event, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, supported JCB’s plans, saying, “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.”

JCB already has a team of 100 engineers working on the hydrogen engines. As well as currently recruiting up to 50 more in order to deliver the first machines by the end of 2022. You may be wondering why JCB is choosing to use hydrogen over electric, when both produce zero emissions? Well, JCB chairman, Lord Bamford, suggested that electric is not an ‘all-round solution’ for the construction industry. It can only be used to power smaller machines.

Meanwhile, Volvo CE states that hydrogen fuel cell technology will play a vital role in creating environmentally friendly and sustainable construction machines. Agreeing with JCB, Volvo CE sees hydrogen-powered machines as an alternative to both diesel and electric machines, especially for large and heavy construction equipment. 

Here at International Plant Sales, we’re very excited to see what the future of construction holds – will hydrogen or electric take the win?

Contact the International Plant Sales team!

Speak to the International Plant Sales team today if you’re looking to invest in any quality used construction equipment. Sadly, it’s not hydrogen or electric just yet, but in the near future we hope it is! We would be happy to assist you if you’re looking for a specific type of size of machine. 

Call the team on: 01634 779123 or email us at We look forward to hearing from you!


Information correct as of 21/10/21

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