According to JCB, the retrofit was completed in just two weeks and used the same hydrogen engine that the company has been testing across prototype backhoe loaders and Loadall telescopic handler machines. JCB chairman Anthony Bamford, who is leading the company’s £100m hydrogen engine project, was one of the first to test drive the retrofitted Sprinter.
“We have retrofitted this vehicle with a JCB hydrogen engine to demonstrate how simple it will be to convert existing vans and to show that it is not only construction and agricultural machines that can be powered by hydrogen,” said Lord Bamford.
“While converting vans will not be for JCB to do, it does prove there is something else other than batteries that can work very effectively.”
The Sprinter is the second Mercedes vehicle to be retrofitted with a JCB hydrogen engine. Earlier this year, a 7.5 tonne Mercedes truck was also given the same treatment. The company said it has already manufactured over 70 hydrogen internal combustion engines in a project involving 150 engineers.
With London’s ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) now expanding to the outer boroughs to clean up the capital’s air, motorists - including many van drivers - are being nudged towards cleaner vehicles. Despite financial incentives being provided to drivers who need to upgrade, there has been significant pushback against the policy. New electric vans present a major financial investment, while the number of ULEZ-compliant second-hand vans is not sufficient to meet demand. Hydrogen retrofitting offers a potential solution to the problem.
According to JCB, hydrogen power could represent a quicker path to reach global CO2 emissions reduction targets. Hydrogen vehicles can also be refuelled much faster than most EVs, with the task completed in a matter of minutes. However, hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is still in its infancy and would need to be rolled out at speed to accommodate any surge in hydrogen retrofit of the UK’s white van fleet.