Hydrogen-propelled forklift trucks: Tough jobs in hard conditions

Challenge: The use of forklifts around the clock should be accompanied by activities to reduce CO2 emissions

Solution: Pilot project - Equipped with powerful H2-Logic fuel cells

Products: Electric Forklift Truck RX 60 2,5 - 3,5 t

At the moment four STILL fuel cell forklift trucks are standing their tests in the central distribution facility of STARK, a Danish construction material provider located in the South Port in Copenhagen. The RX 60 counter balance trucks are fitted with powerful H2-Logic fuel cells and operate around the clock in very tough applications. The Danish company H2-Logic produces fuel cells for tractors and electric counter balance trucks. The trucks are available for service at all times, because they can be refuelled with hydrogen in a couple of minutes at the operator's own fuel station.

STARK - a Danish company for construction materials
Be it for professional building or home improvement: easy access to the materials needed in building projects is always crucial. In Copenhagen, Odense and Aarhus staff at the STARK DIY retail stores inform and consult professional craftsmen as well as private consumers about every aspect they need for their construction: roof tiles and wall cladding, wooden doors and windows as well as interior tiles, to name just a few.

Realigning the company's focus from cyclic wholesale products to materials needed by builders, general contractors and private consumers in the years 1988 to 1990 made the number of STARK retail stores grow significantly. Today the construction materials group STARK with its headquarter in Aarhus is the major supplier for the Danish construction industry, including the territory of Greenland and it is employer to some 2 500 employees in 90 retail stores.

Fuel cell trucks in construction materials handling
Many companies such as the construction materials retailer STARK are well aware of their responsibility for the environment and take measures to reduce their CO2 emissions. The propulsion systems of forklift trucks with fuel cells are most suitable to attain this aim and they a good alternative to trucks with lead batteries or internal combustion engines.

The warehouse and logistics director of the construction materials retailer STARK in Copenhagen, Charlotte Casperson, confirms: "As our lift trucks operate all the time and charging an empty battery takes about eight hours, fast refuelling at our own hydrogen fuelling station is a crucial advantage. Often, we need to load and unload several lorries at the same time. Restrictions from the authorities do not allow us to operate diesel trucks inside our closed halls and warehouses. This is why we are happy about every available truck that can be used under full load to cover our operational peaks. It is not necessary anymore to change the batteries. Also, for the fuel cell trucks, we do not need the infrastructure to charge batteries such as hoisting gear, chargers and spare batteries with change frames. On top of saving the equipment, we also save space. In the face of the limited room we have available this is another argument for the fuel cell trucks."

The fuel cell - zero-emission drive
For internal transport, hydrogen has the potential to become a significant successor to fossil fuels. It can be produced eco-friendly with renewable energy. The electro-chemical fuel cell uses this unlimited fuel source by reverting electrolysis: The process removes the oxygen from the air. When energy is needed, the hydrogen can react with oxygen. This reaction can be used to generate electric power to drive the electric motor of the forklift truck. The only emissions produced during this process are water and heat. Neither CO2 nor particles are emitted!

The company H2-Logic from Herning in Denmark develops and produces fuel cell systems for mobile machinery and the respective hydrogen fuel stations. The low-noise and vibration-free fuel cell system from H2-Logic mainly consists of the fuel cell stack, the control unit, the hydrogen tank and a buffer battery. Just as the traction battery in a conventional electric truck this battery supplies the electric power for the drive motors of the forklift. It does this dependably, also under extreme weather conditions. Fuel cell trucks are refuelled in a similar way as vehicles running on fossil fuels. The full fuelling process only takes a few minutes, specially trained staff is not needed.

Hydrogen-propelled trucks in practical operation
STILL looks back over more than ten years of experience in operating emission-free forklift trucks, tractors and warehouse equipment fitted with fuel cells. The trucks have been tested under the broadest possible range of application conditions. Charlotte Casperson from STARK praises the STILL fuel cells and underpins: "The trucks in our fleet operate around the clock in any weather condition. We simply cannot put up with any failures. Permanent availability, dependability and a personal service are of central importance for us." The new RX 60-25 forklifts with fuel cell drives are robust, reliable and very popular with the drivers at STARK. They are especially happy about the powerful acceleration and the driving comfort the trucks offer.

The trucks at STARK are operated in the frame of the HyLIFT-DEMO project. This project is to promote the operation and testing of fuel cell trucks across Europe at renowned companies from industry and trade. The goal of the project is to prepare the commercial market launch of the fuel cell technology. "Four RX 60-25 trucks already operate at STARK in Denmark and two more of the same type are in service at Colruit in Belgium. In the frame of the HyLIFT-EUROPE project which is supported with funding by the EU, we want to bring over 100 STILL trucks into the market by 2016. There are already numerous enquiries by many renowned companies." says Michael Arndt, Director at STILL Product Management.

The operation of the trucks will generate additional insights into this new technology and will render proof of technical availability of fuel cell systems in logistics processes. The reference data will be very helpful to calculate actual operation and maintenance costs.

A forklift truck fitted with a fuel cell converts hydrogen into electric energy. The truck has the same performance and driving comfort for internal transport of goods as trucks with fossil fuels or electric batteries have. As the resources for diesel and LPG are becoming scarce and expensive, hydrogen generated from renewable energy presents an eco-friendly alternative. Besides this, fuel cells are more efficient than internal combustion engines and with the permanent availability they pose a sensible investment into the future as they are already showing in their application at the construction materials retailer STARK.

STILL Electric Forklift Truck RX 60 2,5 - 3,5 t