Fuel Cell Lift Truck Market Looks Bright, Providers Say

August 22, 2014 By Karen Henry

forklift-energy-manageThere are some big advantages to using fuel cell lift trucks. Not only does it take far less time to refuel a hydrogen fuel cell lift truck than it does to swap out a battery for a conventional lift truck, but fuel cell lift trucks don’t require battery rooms and don’t experience power degradation during an average work shift. But although hydrogen fuel cell powered lift trucks are being used by the likes of Walmart and BMW, several factors are working against their broad market adoption, according to an article in Modern Materials Handling.

The cost of the fuel cells and supporting infrastructure are prohibitively high for more moderately sized fleets, conventional electric lift trucks have become more efficient, and the federal tax credit on fuel cells is set to expire at the end of 2016, says the article.

However, fuel cell manufacturers are undaunted by these obstacles and are finding other ways to encourage customers to make the transition. Plug Power, for example, is combating the high cost of fuel cells by offering a turnkey approach to make the fuel cell transition simple, streamlined and free of upfront costs. Plug Power is also offering a large fuel cell option, the GenDrive 1900, which can power the larger lift trucks that are used in manufacturer settings.

Nuvera Fuel Cells, on the other hand, is catering to more moderately sized facilities and reducing the infrastructure burden by providing facilities with an on-site hydrogen generation capability so that liquid hydrogen doesn’t have to be delivered and stored. Onsite generation does not require as big a footprint as is needed for delivered liquid hydrogen, and no on-site storage for liquid hydrogen makes the permitting process easier.

Linde North America, which provides liquid hydrogen to industrial customers, says fuel cell-powered automobiles should accelerate the buildup of hydrogen infrastructure and reinforce acceptance of the technology on the industrial side of the market.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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