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World’s first electric digger wins MacRobert Award for UK engineering innovation

Published: 09/07/2020

The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) has today announced JCB’s electric digger (19C-1E) as the winner of the 2020 MacRobert Award, the most prestigious prize for UK engineering innovation. The winning team receive a £50,000 prize and a gold medal.  

MacRobert 2020 winner - JCBThe 19C-1E excavator is the world’s first volume-produced fully electric digger and with it, JCB has shown it is possible to make powerful construction machinery without an internal combustion engine. To date, the current fleet has saved the equivalent of 15,100kg in CO2 emissions across 5,616 hours of work, but if used across the global construction sector, which contributes 39% of all carbon emissions, these savings could reach billions of tonnes. 

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. 

The announcement is especially timely following the Prime Minister’s commitment to putting building and construction at the centre of the government’s plan for the UK’s economic recovery.

As well as significantly reducing carbon emissions, the electric digger has zero exhaust emissions and very low noise levels. This combination makes it much better suited than traditional construction vehicles to operating inside buildings or in areas where noise must be kept to a minimum, for example near hospitals and schools. 

JCB, the iconic British brand and world leader in the manufacture of construction and agricultural equipment, launched the digger in 2019 and has already sold hundreds of the machines.  

The MacRobert Award judges lauded 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. 

MacRobert Award winners are chosen by an expert panel of Academy Fellows, who have vast experience across engineering industry and academia.  

For further details and to see past winners of the MacRobert Award, please visit the RAEng website.

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