Tim burnhope electric news article

JCB’s Chief Innovation and Growth Officer, Tim Burnhope explores the introduction of innovative electric technology into JCB’s range of construction equipment while reinforcing the fundamental role diesel power has to play in JCB’s future, in reducing harmful emissions and in building Britain’s infrastructure.

In the last year, JCB has unveiled three new models that have marked a new dawn in our proud history of construction equipment innovation:

  • The 19C-1E – JCB’s first fully electric mini excavator
  • The 30-19E – JCB’s first fully electric Teletruk
  • The new range of Electric scissor lifts powered by lithium-ion batteries

Their introduction signals the launch of the JCB E-TECH range – a new generation of fully electric machines with zero emissions at point of use and no compromise on performance.

Leading the way in alternative fuel technologies, JCB will continue to enhance and develop its exciting electric power train but there is a common misconception that electric is the only answer to a clean-power future.

While huge investment, research and development and manufacturing expertise has gone into the development of these specialist products, electrification remains a niche market for applications in sensitive urban environments and enclosed spaces, where zero emissions and reduced noise levels are a necessity.


In the next thirty years the global population is expected to grow from seven billion to 10 billion. The number of city dwellers will increase from 54 per cent to 70 per cent of the population. 

This means we need to continue to improve air quality, to continue to invest in improved technologies and to continue on the road towards zero harmful emissions.

Electric equipment undoubtedly has a role to play. With urbanisation, machines are operating more closely to people as well as digging underground, indoors, near hospitals and in food production environments. As a result, there is a new zero emissions sector emerging. It is for this reason we have put ourselves at the forefront of alternative power technologies and developed our first ever electric machines.

However, with this increasing urbanisation comes an increased demand for more houses, more public amenities, more schools, more roads and railways. So ultimately, a massive need for more heavy-duty construction.


For large scale excavators, electric power is quite simply too costly both financially and environmentally. It would cost £160,000 for a lithium-ion battery large enough to power a 20-tonne excavator for an eight-hour shift - not to mention the vast amount of carbon-dioxide produced in the battery's manufacturing process.

Diesel, on the other hand, contains more energy than petrol, natural gas, a variety of battery types and many other fuels or power sources. In fact, by mass, diesel contains around 54 times more energy than current lithium-ion batteries.

Diesel is safe to can be delivered to site easily - even in remote locations. Finally, with their high torque nature and robustness, diesel engines are perfectly suited to heavy duty applications, including use in construction equipment. 

Given these benefits it is a major concern that the basic power systems the majority of our industry's machines use - diesel engines - are in danger of being caught in the collateral damage caused largely by the automotive sector diesel scandals.


JCB has long been, and will remain, committed to leading our sector in helping to make construction equipment cleaner and healthier.

Cutting exposure to air pollutants and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is something we take very seriously and, just as innovation has been at the heart of our first fully electric models, it has also been integral to our ground-breaking clean diesel engine development too.

We know that creating cleaner machines starts with creating cleaner engines. We have designed and built our engines at our plant in Derbyshire since 2004. 

Our investment has helped to make our existing engines dramatically better. So much so that in an urban environment where there is already a degree of pollution, the air that comes out of the engine can often be cleaner than the air that goes in. In fact, our vehicles and machines emit less than buses and haulage vehicles.

By way of evidence that JCB's clean diesel engines work for construction and the environment, we only need to look to our capital city. London has major air pollution issues, but if all the vehicles on its roads used JCB's clean diesel technology there would be almost no air quality issues from road transport.


As stricter legislation drives innovation, that innovation drives technological revolution and provides a genuine opportunity to differentiate from competitors.

Our measures for Tier 4 compliance were the perfect example of this. At that stage, while other engine manufacturers chose to meet challenges by incorporating diesel particulate filters, JCB did not. JCB’s novel combustion process meant that pollutants were dealt with in the combustion chamber, rather than finding their way into the exhaust gases, to be dealt with later.

And as emissions legislation has, quite rightly, continued to tighten, we’ve proven our industry-leading capabilities yet again.

For Stage V, the next phase of emissions legislation, JCB is using Particulate Control Technology to meet requirements but has once again sought an alternative to bolting on a DPF. The next generation particulate technology is more than just a particulate filter. It combines a low emissions combustion system with catalysts and filters, all managed by a sophisticated engine and after-treatment control system. This ensures the exhaust emissions are minimised over a wide range of operating conditions. It's completely integrated, highly reliable, highly effective and invisible to the customer.

This latest generation of engines have almost eradicated harmful emissions. NOx is down 97% and soot particulates are down by 98%. Beyond that, JCB’s clean diesel technology has helped deliver a 43 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions from JCB machines by improving fuel efficiency, saving 2.5 billion litres of diesel.


JCB is a proud part of Britain’s manufacturing sector and significant contributor to the UK economy. Our machines play an important role in supporting vital industries and social priorities, particularly housebuilding, infrastructure and agriculture.

Whether they are helping to meet the target of 300,000 new homes every year, building new transport links like HS2 and the smart motorway network, or keeping Britain’s farms working efficiently and safely, JCB machines are part of the fabric of Britain.

We have spent considerable time and effort to dramatically improve the environmental performance of our machines, to the point where they can play an important role in improving air quality.

JCB hopes to see government policies that enable the UK to meet priorities for clean air, while also meeting targets for building the housing and infrastructure on which the population depends.

We see a balanced future, where the optimum machine should be selected for each application. Right now, that is a future where clean diesel machines deliver on the majority of projects. But in sensitive environments - demanding quiet operation or zero emissions at point of use - the innovative new JCB E-TECH range could be the perfect solution.