Hydrogen-powered tractors on public roads

24 April 2024

Environment and climate
JCB Fastrac

Do you think hydrogen-powered tractors should be on public roads? A new government consultation has sought to gather views on whether the rules should be changed.

Further to its Call for Evidence last month on decarbonising NRRM (non-road mobile machinery), the government has consulted on replacing/reforming the VSO (vehicle special order) currently required to operate a hydrogen-powered tractor or loader on public roads.

Previously, the NFU wrote:

  • JCB’s hydrogen combustion technology appears promising, if they can prove its safety in fuel distribution and handling.
  • The accessibility of alternative fuels including availability and distribution may pose other challenges such as fuel handling safety and planning / landscape issues. Farmers need to understand more about the potential distribution methods and infrastructure required for alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen (e.g. tankers, pipelines).
  • Some large specialist machinery, such as those used for sugar beet and pea harvesters, may be arguably better suited to retrofitting with low-carbon engine technology rather than complete replacement.

24 April 2024

Consultation closes

This consultation has now closed. 

22 April 2024

NFU submits response

The NFU has responded to this short consultation, supporting the licensing of professional engine swaps or conversions in NRMM, in addition to new machinery originally designed to run on hydrogen.

This regulatory exception for large items of agricultural machinery would be justified in the expectation of professional retrofits being available, to offer a greater range of flexible options to farmers. The proposed amendment to the Construction and Use regulations should also allow for other possible future gaseous fuels, such as ammonia.

The NFU is also participating in the ongoing DESNZ task-and-finish group on hydrogen internal combustion engines for NRMM. Our strong preference is that hydrogen should pose no greater risk than the other agricultural machinery fuels currently available in its use, storage and distribution.

You can read the NFU's response in full at: Enabling road use of hydrogen-powered non-road mobile machinery – NFU response.

27 March 2024

Department for Transport opens consultation

Regulation 94 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 specifies safety requirements for the use of gas propulsion systems in vehicles.

In 2017, this regulation was amended to permit most road vehicles to be powered by hydrogen, provided they met Type Approval.

However, the Road Vehicles (Approval) Regulations 2009 exclude non-road mobile machinery.

The government is now proposing a further amendment to the regulations, extending them to cover hydrogen-powered agricultural motor vehicles and other types of NRMM capable of being driven on public roads.

Find out more at: GOV.UK | Enabling road use of hydrogen-powered non-road mobile machinery.

This page was first published on 05 April 2024. It was updated on 24 April 2024.

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  • 27 March 2024: Government launches consultation on the use of hydrogen-powered non-road mobile machinery on public roads.