Operational Assessment of Hydrogen-driven Prototype Fuel Cell Electric Excavator
: Development of Construction Machinery for Carbon Neutrality

September 27, 2023
Kobelco Construction Machinery Co., Ltd.

Tokyo, September 27, 2023 – As part of the efforts for achieving carbon neutrality, Kobelco Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. (or KCM), headquartered in Tokyo, is planning to develop and provide construction machinery that would contribute to its clients’ carbon neutrality goals, as well as committing to reduce CO2 from its manufacturing processes*1.
Now, KCM is pleased to announce that it has developed a prototype fuel cell electric excavator and conducted an operational assessment using hydrogen as a drive for the excavator.

Under the brand concept of “fuel-efficient Kobelco,” KCM has been putting effort into the development and provision of construction machinery that would contribute to the reduction of environmental burden, such as the world’s highest-level fuel efficiencies, the world’s first hybrid excavator, and the wired electric excavator.

In recent years, there has been an increasing need for the development of construction machinery with better fuel efficiency and with less CO2 emissions for the realization of a green society. Options of power sources with low CO2 emissions include wired electric, batteries, fuel cell electric, and use of alternative fuels with conventional engines. However, each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the type of usable power sources vary depending on the situation of the worksite. KCM will continue promoting the technological development with diverse carbon neutrality solutions while paying close attention to the situations surrounding the changes in construction sites, drives that are supplied, and the development of relevant laws, regulations, and infrastructure for carbon neutrality, in order to make available construction machinery with the new technologies.

To begin with, KCM is planning to release a battery-operated mini excavator and a midi excavator for Europe, where there is a high need for electric equipment, and to release a wired electric crawler crane for Japan in 2025. We will expand our lineup with an eye towards deploying to large-size models. Additionally, we will continue to promote the reduction of CO2 emissions through energy-saving technologies for excavators currently on sale.

KCM has been working on the practical application of hydrogen-driven fuel cell electric excavators since 2021*2 as part of its product development efforts for carbon neutrality and finished developing a prototype in March 2023. The prototype is a mid-size hydraulic excavator equipped with an electric drive system, powered by Toyota Motor Corporation’s fuel cell unit and hydrogen tank. Through the recently conducted prototype assessment, KCM has confirmed that the basic movements required for excavators can be performed with a hydrogen drive.

Results of assessment using the prototype hydrogen-driven fuel cell electric excavator

  • Speed of movements comparable to that of conventional engine models
  • Significantly less noise than conventional engine models
  • No engine vibration, resulting in less vibration propagation to the body and improved comfort for the operator
  • Zero CO2 emissions—it only emits pure water created as hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air
  • No high-temperature emissions like exhaust gases, resulting in no heat damage to the vehicle body or to its surrounding parts

For the commercialization of the excavator, KCM will continue to work on the prototype for further improvements, giving it performance comparable to that of conventional engine models, such as the capability to excavate and load earth and sand continuously. Furthermore, making use of the collective strengths of the Kobelco group, which possesses hydrogen supply-related technology, KCM will, in order to put the excavator on the market, accelerate the development of relevant aspects, including the excavator’s functional improvement, the establishment of safety and reliability through R&D efforts, as well as the solving of infrastructure issues such as hydrogen supply and charging methods.

  • ※1 As part of the effort to reduce CO2 from the manufacturing processes, KCM introduced electricity, which is derived from renewable energy sources, to Hiroshima Factory in April 2023 and already achieved the target reduction (a decrease of 45.9% from that of 2013) that had initially been planned to be achieved by 2030.
  • ※2 The achievements made through the development of the hydrogen-driven fuel cell electric excavator were made possible by the subsidized project of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). In 2021, “R&D and demonstration experiment of hydraulic excavators equipped with a fuel cell system” was adopted as a subsidized project.

Hydrogen-driven fuel cell electric excavator being operated

*The information contained herein is as of the date this announcement was made and it may be changed without prior notice.