Is fuel cell technology in the warehouse viable for the future?


A new study commissioned by the Clean Intralogistics Net (CIN) confirms what industry insiders and numerous manufacturers have had on their radar for some time: Fuel cells are increasingly becoming an economically interesting drive alternative. Find out who has already switched over and how the variant performs in a real warehouse here.

The first hydrogen-powered forklifts rolled through the BMW plant in Leipzig back in 2013. The Bavarian automaker had launched the “H2IntraDrive” project as a scientific practical test in cooperation with, among others, the Technical University of Munich and Linde Material Handling. Eleven fuel cell-powered forklifts and tugger trains from the manufacturer Linde Material Handling were used. “Sustainability is a top priority at BMW i, and that applies to the product just as much as to production,” plant manager Dr. Milan Nedeljkovic emphasized to CIN during the handover of the vehicles.

Keyword: Sustainability

Fuel cell technology is characterized above all by the fact that emissions can be significantly reduced. In addition, the industrial trucks require little maintenance and the fast loading processes bring a new dynamic to the warehouses. Since the benefits ofCO2-neutral technology stand and fall with the infrastructure, the project at BMW Leipzig also saw the construction of Germany’s first indoor refueling facility for hydrogen.

Markus Weinberger, International Product Manager Energy Solutions at Linde Material Handling, can also confirm that sustainability is becoming increasingly important for intralogistics: “Our customers are looking for economical solutions, and at the same time thecarbon footprint is playing an increasingly decisive role. Fuel cell technology enables us to combine both goals well“.

Ready for the broad market

Fuel cells can already be purchased for 80 percent of Linde Material Handling’s portfolio. BMW has taken up this offer and in December 2018, after successful implementation of the pilot project, expanded its fleet by 70 additional vehicles. The modern and sustainable plant in Leipzig is thus setting new standards in Europe – and demonstrating that the forecasts recorded in theory also hold up in practice. The CIN study also sees great potential for further expansion and also replacement of internal combustion engine-powered equipment with fuel cell-powered electric industrial trucks – provided that industrial use of the technology continues to be strongly promoted. There is a need above all for hydrogen infrastructure and for further development and design of the systems. The USA is setting a good example here: thanks to intensive promotion of the technology, there are already around 25,000 fuel-powered industrial trucks there, compared with only 500 in Europe so far.

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