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JCB's electric digger wins 2020 MacRobert Award

JCB’s 19C-1E electric digger has been named winner of the RAEng’s 2020 MacRobert Award, an accolade that affords the winners a £50,000 prize and a gold medal.

electric digger
19C-1E electric excavator (Image: JCB)

Launched in 2019, the 19C-1E excavator is the world’s first volume-produced fully electric digger. To date, the current fleet has reportedly saved the equivalent of 15,100kg in CO2 emissions across 5,616 hours of work. It is estimated that if used across the global construction sector, which contributes 39 per cent of all carbon emissions, these savings could reach billions of tonnes.

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JCB’s winning team are Tim Burnhope FREng, Chief Innovation Officer, Bob Womersley, Director of Advanced Engineering, Lee Harper, Chief Engineer – Electrified Machines, Lee Milward, Design Manager, and Corey Smith, Test and Development Manager.

Prof. Sir Richard Friend FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “JCB’s electric digger is a huge engineering achievement. The team has developed all parts of the electric propulsion system to deliver system performance that matches real customer requirements.

“This is a huge achievement in itself, but the additional benefits of zero exhaust emissions and much lower noise has lifted the 19C-1E excavator to a new level.”

He added that that the digger could be a catalyst for change in an industry responsible for 10 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions.

According to JCB, the 19C-1E shares the same structure, canopy, dig end, hydraulics and controls as the diesel version of the same machine. Its four battery-pack can be charged with a 110V yellow industrial socket, with the option of a 230V industrial three pin blue socket. The company add that a fast charge option has a charging time from empty of 2.5 hours from a 415V supply.

“To win one of the world’s most respected engineering prizes is an outstanding endorsement for JCB’s electrification team, who have achieved so much in applying a science which was new to our business,” said JCB Chairman Lord Bamford. “JCB’s electric mini excavator will contribute to a zero-carbon future and help make the world more sustainable. It’s a huge honour for our contribution to be recognised in this way.”

JCB’s electric digger was selected by the MacRobert Award judging panel ahead of the all-electric I-PACE sports utility vehicle from Jaguar Land Rover and ecoSMRT liquid natural gas reliquification technology from Babcock’s LGE business.