JC Bamford (JCB) Excavators, the world’s largest manufacturer of backhoe loaders and telescopic handlers-the construction machines used for excavating and heavy material lifting jobs, among other equipment, plans to export 45% construction equipment machines it produces in India.
The Bamford family-owned company is also looking to test its recently developed hydrogen combustion engine-a first for a construction equipment firm globally, in India- its largest markoutside Europe.
It is also looking to make electrolysers – a unit within which water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity for producing hydrogen for testing its zero-emission back-hoe loaders. To be produced for captive consumption, it plans to commence production of the electrolysers in the next 18 months at its UK facility. Subsequently, it will also be produced in India.
“We are investing in India all the time— more there than other parts of the world. We try to reproduce everything we do here, in your country and we are happy about that. If we make the hydrogen engines here commercially, we will be making them in India as well,” Lord Bamford, chairman, JCB, told reporters at the company’s global headquarters in Rocester, UK. Given India’s high dependence on imported fossil fuel the urgency to find a solution should be more, he stated.
Globally, various companies including India’s Reliance Industries and Adani Enterprises have been working on green hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuel. The mass-scale production and dispensation of the fuel, however, is still a few years away.
Last year the company announced an investment of £100 million in a green field facility in Vadodara in Gujarat to consolidate manufacturing and fabrication of parts meant for its global factories.
JCB’s team of 150 engineers had been working on developing the hydrogen combustion engine since 2019 and the company has pumped in £100 million for the project. The hydrogen engines are already powering prototype backhoe loaders and telescopic handlers. On Friday, the company showcased its locally developed hydrogen, a first for any construction machinery firm globally, to a group of Indian reporters.
The company has been working on multiple green technologies but it’s only hydrogen which has emerged as the most appropriate solution, Tim Burnhope, chief innovation, and growth officer, JCB. “The unique combustion properties of hydrogen enable the hydrogen engine to deliver the same power, the same torque, and the same efficiency that powers JCB machines today, but in a zero-carbon way,” said Burnhope.
Bamford believes as a country that imports much of its fossil fuel requirement, India could easily be one of the leaders in hydrogen to find a solution. As a nation if you are dependent on importing fuel from Russia and Iran, they aren’t reliable as countries,” he said.
“Hydrogen combustion engines are an exciting prospect for JCB India. Hydrogen is a mobile fuel, perfect for the Indian market,” said Deepak Shetty, CEO and managing director, JCB India. In line with India’s National Hydrogen Mission, as the hydrogen economy develops in India, the opportunity for this zero CO2 fuel for use in construction machinery is significant, he said.
Calendar year 2022 was a record year for JCB in India and it expects 2023 to be yet another record year in terms of revenue and profitability, said Graeme Macdonald, chief executive officer. A strong domestic market where road and infrastructure projects are fuelling the growth and where it commands half of the total market in addition to exports, will drive the growth, said Macdonald.
“This year we expect 45% of what we manufacture in India will be exported from 10% five years ago.” Over the years, India has emerged as a global export hub not only for the traditional Southeast Asia and Middle East but also for America and other regions, he added. JCB already exports to over 110 countries from India.
India sold a total of 69,400 units in 2022 against 70,100 units in 2021. It has sold 40,800 units in the first half of the current calendar year and likely to end the year with a multi-year high sale of more than 80,000 units, according to Indian Construction Equipment Manufacturers Association (ICEMA)