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Wed July 28 2021

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Big prize for JCB’s electric digger

9 Jul 20 The JCB 19C-1E, the world's first electric digger, has won the 2020 MacRobert Award for UK engineering innovation.

The battery-powered JCB 19C-1E
The battery-powered JCB 19C-1E

The compact  JCB 19C-1E joins a list of former winners that include the catalytic converter, the Rasberry Pi micro computer and the Millennium Dome.

JCB’s winning team are: chief innovation officer Tim Burnhope FREng, director of advanced engineering Bob Womersley, chief engineer (electrified machines) Lee Harper, design manager Lee Milward and test & development manager Corey Smith. They get to share a £50,000 prize and a gold medal.

The 19C-1E excavator fleet currently at work, which numbers in its hundreds, has to date save 15,100kg in CO2 emissions across 5,616 hours of work, it has been calculated.

The MacRobert Award judges praised JCB for demonstrating the utility of electric machines in a construction setting and the potential for future innovation to boost sustainability in the sector.

The hope is that this entry could do for the construction sector what the double MacRobert Award winner Johnson Matthey did for the motor industry with the catalytic converter, which has stopped hundreds of millions of tonnes of pollution from entering the atmosphere.

Sir Richard Friend, 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. The digger is more than a great bit of engineering, however. It has the power to be the catalyst for change in an industry that is responsible for around 10% of all of the UK’s carbon emissions.” 

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JCB chairman Lord Bamford said: “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. 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.”  

The winning team
The winning team

JCB’s electric digger was selected ahead of other shortlisted finalists: the all-electric I-PACE sports utility vehicle from Jaguar Land Rover and ecoSMRT liquid natural gas reliquification technology from Babcock’s LGE business.

The MacRobert Award is run by the Royal Academy of Engineering with support from the Worshipful Company of Engineers. Since 1969 it has recognised engineering achievements that demonstrate outstanding innovation, tangible societal benefit and proven commercial success.

The first award in 1969 was made jointly for two iconic innovations: to Rolls-Royce for the Pegasus engine used in the Harrier jump jet, and to consulting engineer Freeman Fox & Partners for aerodynamic deck design of the Severn Bridge.

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