The UK government has approved the world’s first digger powered by a hydrogen combustion engine for use on the UK’s roads with the aim of decarbonising the UK’s construction agency.

The government said it was giving “special dispensation” under a special vehicle order that allows agricultural machinery manufacturer, JCB, to test and use its hydrogen-powered backhoe loader in the UK.

Image: UK government

With 25% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions coming from the built environment, the government said, it’s vital that the entire construction industry looks to decarbonise at every stage.

Technology and decarbonisation minister, Jesse Norman, said: “From cars to construction sites, industry has a vital role in decarbonising our economy and creating green jobs and prosperity.

“JCB’s investment in greener equipment is a great example of how industry can make this happen, using alternative fuels to generate sustainable economic growth.”

JCB’s prototype hydrogen-powered digger is “an important first step” in the construction industry’s efforts to decarbonise what is a “hard to decarbonise” sector, the government said.

JCB chair, Lord Bamford, said the securing of the vehicle special order from the Department for Transport is an endorsement that JCB is on the right path in pursuit of its net zero ambitions.

“JCB’s hydrogen-powered backhoe loader is a world first in our industry, a digger with a purpose-engineered internal combustion engine that uses hydrogen gas as the energy source.

“It’s a real breakthrough – a zero CO2 fuel providing the power to drive the pistons in an internal combustion engine, a technology that’s been around for over 100 years, a technology that we are all familiar with.”