February 9, 2005 While the availability and infrastructure required for the mass adoption of hydrogen powered automobiles is slowly but surely moving into place, it's still some way off before the average person will be able to purchase a road going vehicle that produces no harmful emissions. But commercially viable hydrogen-powered industrial vehicles are closer to the market than many people think and one of the most likely to succeed in short order is the forklift.
General Motors (Canada) and Hydrogenics demonstrated just that earlier this week when it showed off an operational fuel cell forklift supported by an onsite hydrogen fuelling station at a GM facility.
Hydrogenics is leading a consortium of partners to develop, demonstrate and move fuel cell-powered forklifts toward commercialization and not surprisingly, the fuel in the project is being generated from Hydrogenics' HyLYZER hydrogen refueling station.
The HyLYZER can produce a variable amount of hydrogen, depending on requirements, and it can refuel a forklift in a fraction of the time that the batteries can be changed or recharged on a battery-powered unit. As the HyLYZER refueling station is compact, with easy connection points, it can be transported easily from site to site.
"Currently, industrial vehicles contribute almost 13 per cent of the global total of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions," said Pierre Rivard, president and CEO of Hydrogenics. "We believe that one of the first commercial uses for hydrogen powered-vehicles will be in industrial vehicle fleets, such as forklifts, where dedicated on-site refuelling stations can meet immediate refuelling needs.
"Fuel cell-powered forklifts are ideal for indoor facilities, such as factories and warehouses, because they produce no exhaust emissions, and they have significant operational advantages over traditional battery-powered forklifts. We have always known that being environmentally friendly is not enough on its own to sell this technology. It simply has to be better than what people use now."
"This trial of hydrogen-powered forklift trucks at GM's car plant in Oshawa is just one example of the steps GM and its partners are taking as we head down the road to the hydrogen economy," said David Paterson, vice-president, corporate and environmental affairs, GM Canada.
"Demonstration projects like this are critical to the development of fuel cell technology. With predictable duty cycles, lift trucks are an ideal application from which to learn, and a large plant like ours, where external elements are not a factor, is an ideal place in which to conduct a trial like this."