From cars and buses to forklifts, use of fuel cells grew significantly in 2011, a new Energy Department report found.
Total worldwide fuel cell shipments “grew 37.5 percent between 2010 and 2011 and 214 percent between 2008 and 2011,” DOE said in its 2011 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report.
So where are all those fuel cells going? DOE said you will find them in use in a wide range of places, but perhaps nowhere are they more prevalent than in warehouses.
“Currently, the United States is by far the world leader in fuel cell-powered forklift deployments, with more than 3,000 fuel cell forklifts either deployed or on order as of the end of 2011. By comparison, deployments in Europe total about 33 units,” according to the report.
What makes them so popular?
“Large warehouses have found that fuel cells provide both an attractive alternative to battery-powered vehicles and an effective range extender for batteries,” researchers said. “As a battery replacement, fuel cells provide nearly continuous operations (refueling takes less than five minutes), provide a continuous level of power (batteries lose power as charge levels decrease), and eliminate the need for battery changing facilities that use valuable warehouse space.”
On the transportation front, DOE said work continues on fuel cell cars, adding that “several major automakers remain committed to producing commercial quantities by 2015.”
And, the report added, “The increased volume, coupled with continued technology improvements, is expected to result in significant price reductions.”
Fuel cell buses are already on the roads in several cities worldwide, including California’s Coachella Valley, where SunLine Transit Agency has three in its fleet.
The newest bus is the first of three the agency will get that comply with federal “Buy America” standards. It began running in January 2012, and has a range of 300 to 350 miles.