Hyundai Construction Equipment (HCE) introduced a hydrogen-powered wheeled excavator concept at Bauma 2022 in Munich, Germany this week, shining a light on yet another viable alternative power source that can lead to a zero-carbon future.

The HW155H is expected to be commercially available by 2025-26.

Stefan Schwill, HCE product manager said the wheeled excavator had been chosen as the model to be powered by hydrogen “as it works in urban environments and low emission zones, and the 14-tonne model is a popular model.”

The machine is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell, providing the electrical power to operate it with zero tailpipe emissions. The machine can be charged in just 10 minutes.

Hyundai Motors has offered the hydrogen-powered ix35 and more recently the Nexo passenger car for more than four years and is putting the XCIENT fuel cell-powered heavy trucks through trials in Germany.

Schwill said hydrogen could be a more appropriate fuel source for larger machines than battery power.

Unlike a diesel-powered wheeled excavator, the hydrogen machine has a fuel cell mounted in the rear of the upper structure.

The fuel cell relies on a chemical reaction between the stored hydrogen and oxygen that is present in the air. The fuel cell stack generates electrical energy from this reaction, with an inverter converting this energy into usable electrical power. This is used to drive the hydraulic pump which powers the machine in the normal way.

The only emission from the fuel cell stack is water, a combination of the hydrogen and oxygen. When that hydrogen is produced using renewable energy, such as off-shore wind, this creates a low-carbon powertrain. For the excavator, the hydrogen is stored on the right-hand side of the machine, opposite the operator’s cab, in high-pressure tanks.

“The development of the first excavator powered by hydrogen is very exciting, as we work towards a carbon-free world,” said Gert Peeters, product manager at Hyundai CE Europe. “Over the coming months, HCE will continue to develop and further refine this technology and thereby pursue our goal to lead the transition into a zero-carbon future.”

He added, “While great progress has already been made in the development of electric vehicle technology, there is a risk that we overlook hydrogen as a practical, immediate solution to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

“Our projections show that fuel cell-powered vehicles will be more cost-effective than battery-electric or diesel-powered vehicles in the future. We at Hyundai Construction Equipment are convinced that hydrogen will be at the forefront of renewable energies in the long term.”

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