JCB hails ‘major advance’ towards making fuel produced using renewable energy viable for large vehicles.
To import and supply hydrogen produced using renewable energy, the construction equipment maker JCB has signed a multibillion-pound deal.
The company announced a deal with Australia’s Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) that will allow it to start selling “green” gas through a specialist division, Ryze Hydrogen, from early next year as the Cop26 climate conference got underway in Glasgow.
As the world seeks to wean itself from burning fossil fuels, hydrogen is considered an alternative option for heavy industries as it does not produce carbon dioxide when burned. In many countries, including the UK, it already powers buses and it could power trucks, trains, and other highly energy-consuming vehicles including aircraft – areas that are currently considered difficult to decarbonize.
Although FFI’s green hydrogen is produced from 100% renewable sources it still requires significant energy to produce.
Anthony Bamford, whose company Wrightbus built the world’s first hydrogen double-decker bus and is JCB’s chairman, said the deal was an important step towards getting greener energy to commercial customers. He said:
“It’s fine having an engine powered by green hydrogen, but no good if customers can’t get green hydrogen to fuel their machines. This is a major advance on the road towards making green hydrogen a viable solution. We want the government to show its commitment to the sector by investing in buses, trains, trucks, ships, aircraft, and the entire green hydrogen supply chain.”
The deal would enable the UK to achieve its net-zero targets, particularly in hard-to-electrify sectors, said FFI’s chairman, Andrew Forrest. He added:
“The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with replacing fossil fuel with only 2m tones of green hydrogen is the equivalent of taking over 8m cars off the road – almost a quarter of the UK’s entire fleet.”
Previously, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has said that low-carbon hydrogen has a critical role to play in the UK’s transition to net zero. Trials to see if it can be used to heat the nation’s homes have been ongoing. As much as the existing gas network can be utilized, it is an attractive option.
Producing it using renewable electricity, however, is less efficient than using that electricity as a direct power source. Ministers have been talking up air source heat pumps instead in recent weeks, suggesting that hydrogen may be better used in hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as transport.