Liebherr debuts R 9XX H2 crawler excavator with hydrogen engine & potential upscaling for mining

In times of climate change, which calls for extensive measures to protect the environment and in particular to reduce pollutant emissions, it is one of the tasks of construction machinery manufacturers to develop low-emission solutions. Liebherr says it is also working on various drive alternatives in different product segments in the interests of its customers, with an open approach to technology, in order to make a contribution to the reduction of emissions. These include internal combustion engines that run on hydrogen.

At bauma 2022, Liebherr is debuting a crawler excavator developed by Liebherr-France SAS in Colmar, equipped with an integrated hydrogen combustion engine. The model on display of the installed H966 engine comes from Liebherr Machines Bulle SA in Switzerland.

The H2 drive in the crawler excavator on display does not require a permanent energy supply and emits extremely low levels of NOx and CO2. Depending on the assessment method used in each case, and whether the entire lifecycle of the machine is taken into account, the hydrogen combustion engine can reduce CO2 emissions by almost 100%, when considering “tank to wheel” or by 70%, when considering the “cradle to grave” principle.

The first Liebherr hydrogen engine, the H966, is the heart of the new R 9XX H2 excavator. This is an engine designed for both demonstration and field trials and is based on an intake manifold injection technology (also known as PFI). “The achieved results offer evidence of a great potential in hydrogen propulsion and argue in favour of using such drives for off-road applications as well.”

The Liebherr H966 hydrogen engine

The group is now presenting its extensive expertise along with the first resulting product. In addition, the components division is working on further hydrogen-based drive technologies, such as H2 direct injection. “The latter enables a higher power density than the established H2 intake manifold injection and is, thus, particularly suitable for heavy-duty applications in demanding working environments, such as the construction and mining industries.”

The R 9XX H2 “meets highest quality standards as all crawler excavators by Liebherr-France SAS do. Its design is based on the current and future generation 8 of crawler excavators. With it, the R 9XX H2 shares a focus on a more comfortable and efficient application. The excavator reaches the same overall performance as its diesel engine counterpart, both in terms of power output, engine dynamics and response. Suitable for extreme temperatures, shock and dust-intensive site operations, the R 9XX H2, with its operating weight of 50 t, can become as robust a solution for earthmoving and quarrying applications in the future as the conventionally powered Liebherr crawler excavators in the same class already are.”

The only differences are in refuelling the machines: Fast and safe refuelling is ensured via infrared communication between the excavator and the refuelling station, where users benefit from the standardised high-speed protocol.

Henrik Weitze, Project Manager at Liebherr-France SAS, also emphasises: “The tests carried out in Colmar were extremely convincing. This technology promises many advantages for us in the future, especially in the most challenging applications.”