Liebherr unveils first large wheel loader with hydrogen engine

The Liebherr plant in Bischofshofen, Austria, recently celebrated two major milestones: the launch of the world’s first large wheel loader with a hydrogen engine, and the opening of the first hydrogen filling station in the state of Salzburg.

According to Liebherr, the L 566 H is the world’s first prototype large wheel loader with a hydrogen engine. Following extensive studies, this technology was identified as the optimal solution for operating large vehicles that are difficult to electrify without CO2 emissions.

For smaller vehicles up to about 15 t, battery-electric solutions are often suitable. However, the situation is different with larger machines with an operating weight of up to 40 t and high energy requirements. Hydrogen reciprocating piston engines prove to be ideal in this case.

These hydrogen engines are manufactured at the engine plant of Liebherr’s components product segment in Bulle, Switzerland. They enable not only zero emissions of greenhouse gases and almost no nitrogen oxides, but are also highly efficient. Furthermore, the interfaces are comparable to those of a diesel engine – thermally and mechanically.

Another highlight at the launch event was a MAN truck with a hydrogen engine. This shows that hydrogen technology is not only feasible in wheel loaders, but is already used in construction site trucks.

As part of the development, Liebherr Bischofshofen has opened its own hydrogen filling station. A strategic partner in this project is Maximator Hydrogen, the manufacturer of the new filling station and a research partner of Liebherr. Together, they are working on mobile filling facilities so that machinery can be refuelled directly at the construction sites – which is important especially for remote projects and machines that are not very mobile.

“To make progress in hydrogen research, we need to have access to hydrogen. We built this filling station to further advance our goals for decarbonising construction machinery,” said Dr.-Ing. Herbert Pfab, chief technical officer at Liebherr Bischofshofen.

Another partner of Liebherr is MPREIS, which ensures the supply of green hydrogen. This is also important because only through emission-free production – using wind, hydroelectric or solar energy – can hydrogen play a key role as a sustainable and climate-friendly energy source.