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The World’s First Mass-Produced Fully-Electric Digger

October 14, 2020 by Lianne Frith

Earlier this year, a JCB electric digger, called the 19C-1E, won the UK’s annual MacRobert Award, the leading prize in the UK to recognise engineering innovation. The vehicle is the world’s first volume-produced, fully battery-powered digger and offers the potential to drive sustainable engineering in the construction sector.

The MacRobert Award

The MacRobert Award, run by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), is a celebration of UK engineering innovation. It endorses engineering achievements that are not only innovative but offer tangible societal benefits and commercial success. Winning the globally-recognised award is an incredible endorsement.

The JCB 19C-1E beat shortlisted products from Babcock LGE and Jaguar Land Rover to claim the coveted prize. It is a huge credit to JCB’s electrification team, which has been striving to apply new science to its construction fleet.

The new 19C-1E: the construction industry’s first fully electric mini digger with zero emissions at point of use. Image Credit: JCB.

The Key Features of JCB’s Electric Digger

The electrification team at JCB designed the innovative digger to meet client requirements: they wanted machines that are simple and easy to maintain, have zero emissions, and can maintain a full day shift on a single charge.

According to JCB’s video with RAEng, to deliver such desired features, the engineering team took technology that was developed for the automotive industry and then augmented it further to make it applicable to an off-highway function.

As a result of these design innovations, the digger ultimately comprises some of the following key features:

  • A four lithium-ion battery pack that will last up to 120 hours to allow for a full day of operation
  • Three charging options (having been equipped with 110V, 230V, and 415V charging cables), with less than three hours required for a full recharge
  • No engine and associate components, removing the need for both liquid engine checks and the maintenance of consumable parts
  • A noise reduction (when compared to the electric digger’s diesel equivalent) of 10 decibels (dB) at the operator station, as well as a 6dB reduction in external noise
  • A unique ‘2GO’ system that safely isolates the controls as a secondary safety system to prevent accidental movement. 
  • An extensively tested electrical circuit with heavy-duty cables to maximise longevity


The 19C-1E electric digger went into production in 2019, and JCB has already sold hundreds of the machines.

What Differentiates JCB’s Electric Digger?

JCB’s 19C-1E excavator has shown the potential to create powerful machinery without an internal combustion engine (ICE) and the many engineering complications that come with it (such as dealing with high CO2 emissions, owing to the weight of ICEs).

As covered next, by circumventing the need for an ICE, the JCB team has delivered three key points of improvement to traditional construction machinery.


It is Environmentally Friendly

One of the unique selling points of JCB’s fully-electric digger is its environmental credentials. JCB claims its current fleet of electric diggers has saved the equivalent of 15,100 kilograms of CO2 emissions across 5,616 hours of operation.


The 19C-1E electric digger being operated inside a building, which demonstrates—thanks to its low noise pollution—the vehicle’s potential for both indoor and night-time construction. Image Credit: JCB.


It Causes Very Low Noise Pollution

As discussed earlier,  the 19C-1E is extremely quiet, particularly when compared to traditional diggers. Not only does this make the vehicle more pleasant to use, but it also grants it more applications: the vehicle’s low noise pollution means it is suitable for indoor use and even in sensitive environments, such as in and around hospitals and schools.


It Is Productive

By having a machine with no internal combustion engine, there are fewer maintenance concerns: alongside the engineering complications of internal combustions mentioned above, consider ICE overheating, as just one example.

What’s more, the 19C-1E’s ability to achieve a full day’s battery charge grants a generally more productive working environment for construction workers.

Is This the Beginning of Environmentally-conscious Construction?

Aside from its said achievements in sustainable engineering, the JCB 19C-1E electric digger also has the potential to drive change in the construction industry. The innovation has shown that it is possible to produce powerful machinery that is also emission-free. According to the World Green Building Council, around 38% of global energy-related emissions come from the construction industry.

If the savings in emissions that have been seen within its current fleet were used across the global construction sector, the savings could reach billions of tonnes. A worthy winner of this year’s prize, JCB’s electric mini excavator is set to help make the construction industry more sustainable from now and into the future.

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