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April 11, 2024

The Future of Powering Non-Road Mobile Machinery

The Future of Powering Non-Road Mobile Machinery

As the UK government explores future energy solutions for non-road mobile machinery (NRMM), industry voices are weighing in on the debate between batteries, hydrogen, and other alternatives. The Hydrogen Energy Association (HEA), representing 120 hydrogen-focused businesses, has made a strong case for hydrogen, highlighting its potential to revolutionise the construction industry. Their proposal emphasises the advantages of hydrogen internal combustion engines and fuel cells, particularly in remote locations and areas with high grid constraints, where traditional electric solutions may fall short.

Hydrogen: A Dual Approach

The HEA's proposal centers on two main technologies: hydrogen internal combustion engines (ICEs) and hydrogen fuel cells.

  1. Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs):
    • Benefits: Offer reduced initial investment for manufacturers transitioning from fossil fuels.
    • Environmental Impact: Achieve zero carbon and minimal NOx emissions, making them environmentally friendly options for heavy machinery.
  2. Hydrogen Fuel Cells:
    • Operational Efficiency: Known for low operational costs and high reliability.
    • Emissions: Provide a completely zero-emission solution, ideal for sustainable construction practices.

Challenges of Electric Solutions

While battery and tethered electric solutions have been prominent, the HEA points out several limitations that make these technologies less suitable for certain NRMM applications:

  • Remote Locations: Many construction sites are in remote areas with limited access to the electric grid, posing significant challenges for electric machinery.
  • Grid Constraints: High grid constraints in some areas further reduce the viability of electric solutions.

The HEA emphasises that a singular focus on electrification could undermine the development and adoption of other viable technologies. They advocate for a diverse approach to decarbonisation, where hydrogen solutions play a crucial role due to their flexibility, durability, and robustness.

An interesting facet of the HEA’s submission is their recommendation for the UK to align its hydrogen policy with the European Union. This alignment, they argue, would prevent disadvantaging UK industries and encourage investment in hydrogen technologies. They also suggest learning from European nations like the Netherlands and Norway, which have introduced subsidies for zero-emission construction equipment.


As the construction industry moves towards decarbonisation, hydrogen presents a compelling case as a part of the solution. The HEA's advocacy highlights hydrogen's potential to address the unique challenges of NRMM, urging the government to consider it as a vital component of future energy strategies.

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