Off Highway

Including excavators, cranes and agricultural vehicles

Typical passenger car usage is around 300 hours per year. In contrast, a heavy duty excavator is in use for between 3,500-5,000 hours each year. Light duty earth movers weighing less than 2 tonnes, such as mini diggers, have a low energy demand and light usage around 1,200 per year. Heavy duty machines weighing between two and 20 tonnes have a higher energy demand and high usage of 8-16hrs each day, up to 4,000 hours each year. 

Therefore, there is a natural transition in powertrain options that could show a more sustainable and economic route to service the market. Large-scale machines are beginning to explore the use of hydrogen (including cryogenic hydrogen storage) as a suitable alternative to fossil-based fuels.

Increasing up-time, reducing operating costs for fleet owners, creating multifuel platforms and reducing emissions are at the heart of the challenge for the off-highway industry. 

Composites in off-highway vehicles

Hydrogen fuel stored in pressure vessels provides a route to supporting the transition to a greener, more economic and extended running time, especially for first movers at green field sites. The National Composites Centre is a world leader in hydrogen pressure vessel design. Through our unique design tools and leading hydrogen initiatives, we are accelerating the adoption of net zero technologies for off-highway applications and across other industries. Our aim is to reduce your operating costs with zero emission fuel solutions that power you to a cleaner future. 

Help us solve your challenges. Book a consultation with the team today.

What we do

At the National Composites Centre, we are assessing biomaterials and resin systems to support the adoption of bio-sensitive materials that reduce the potential environmental impact for OEMs. The overarching aim is to accelerate the route to net zero, helping UK companies to innovate and create a green ecosystem for off-highway vehicles including excavators, trackbarrows, tractors and other agricultural vehicles.  

Energy storage systems

It is widely recognised that the adoption of hydrogen in land-based transport systems is likely to materialise first in off-highway applications, largely due to demands on uptime and reducing operational costs. The industry needs pressure vessels that can store the volume of hydrogen required. 

Composite battery enclosures for light duty mini earth movers, such as mini diggers and track barrows, are also becoming ever more important to provide a lightweight solution. Having the ability to reduce sealing surfaces and welds that are often porous in traditional metal enclosures is key. By using composites, we can increase the ability to contain thermal events and ensure that we can control thermal propagation into neighbouring structures.

Sustainable supply chain solutions

Read more about Sustainable supply chain solutions

Sustainable supply chain solutions

With the adoption of hydrogen in off highway vehicles and the need for high volume storage, there is a need to develop a supply chain for this demand in the UK. The National Composites Centre is working with industry partners to find a solution for this. We have launched a three-year innovation programme that will see a team of composites specialists refine and scale the industrial processes needed to establish a commercial market for reclaimed continuous carbon fibre. With global demand for virgin fibre set to exceed supply by 2025, this could ease pressure on supply chains and see the UK take a leading role in defining a new era for composites.

NCC training

Upskilling the off highway workforce

Read more about Upskilling the off highway workforce

Upskilling the off highway workforce

The National Composites Centre provides specialised composites training - from the basic introductory courses on composite materials through to bespoke deep focus on a topic with customised content. Our training covers composite manufacturing methods, sustainability and digital methodologies that can be tailored for off-highway businesses.

Our aim is to equip your workforce with the skills needed to increase your profitability, your operational efficiency, your awareness to sustainable materials and to introduce new ways to design in composite materials that will reduce part-count and lineside complexity.

Work with us

Access our world-leading R&D facility

Read more about Access our world-leading R&D facility

Access our world-leading R&D facility

As one of the seven centres that make up the UK's High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the NCC has more 450 composite experts (and an additional 200 at the University of Bristol) that can support you with solutions for your business and product challenges.

We've invested over £200 million in cutting edge technologies within our two Bristol-based facilities since we began in 2011. Our portfolio has grown extensively: we’re working with companies of all sizes from micro-organisations and start-ups to some of the world’s largest and most respected innovators. With links to over 60 universities and academic institutions, we are in a prime position to accelerate your product development from low technology readiness levels towards a robust commercial offering. 

Collaboration and funding opportunities

Read more about Collaboration and funding opportunities

Collaboration and funding opportunities

Working with the National Composites Centre could not be simpler. We can work with you and support your business through a variety of ways: from a standard contracting commercial basis through to supporting or leading bids into wider funding calls, and as a part of major collaborative research programmes.   

Our SME team offers dedicated support to help small businesses with innovation, giving access to our facility and expertise to increase the technology readiness level (TRL) of your products. In 2021, we secured over £7.5 million of grant funding and supported 169 SMEs. 

As part of the wider Catapult Network, the NCC fosters collaborations between industry, government, research organisations, academia and many others. Through this extensive network of organisations, we can help create the best environments for innovation, working with thousands of innovative businesses across a wide range of sectors, such as manufacturing, space, health, digital, energy, transport, telecoms, the urban environment and many others. 

NCC membership opportunities

The National Composites Centre offers a range of membership opportunities that give you access to 'beyond' state-of-the-art technology and the best composites engineering capabilities in the world, as well as expert advice from specialist engineers. Our Members are our closest customers – helping to steer our major R&D activities with multiple partners, allowing them to share the benefits of the programme outputs that have greater value as a collaboration. Find out how membership with the NCC can bring you added benefits. 


Book a consultation with the team

Our dedicated Surface Transport team has specific off highway industry expertise that can help you to innovate and decarbonise your products and services. We can help you to shape your R&D, collaborate with you on your projects, offer training and skills development, and advise you on what is required to increase the technology readiness level of your product and get ready for market. We're here to help. 

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