Moving with the speed and precision of the actual vehicle being manufactured there, in a time period of less than six weeks, Air Products put in place its industry-leading hydrogen fueling technology and infrastructure to successfully convert a significant portion of a lift truck fleet at the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The 72 converted lifts, now hydrogen-powered fuel cell material handling units, began daily operations moving Mercedes vehicle parts for assembly when employees returned to the manufacturing facility from an annual week-long summer shutdown.
“It was important to our customer to have the hydrogen fueling and infrastructure all in place so they could ramp-up immediately upon return to work from their annual break. This was a tall order to complete in six weeks from the signing of the contract, but with safety being the absolute first priority, we had the market experience to successfully make this happen for Mercedes,” said Sarah Hammond, business development manager for Hydrogen Energy Systems at Air Products. The leader in providing hydrogen fueling and the related infrastructure to the material handling market, Air Products is now safely fueling over 1,000 pieces of material handling equipment on a daily basis in the U.S.
Air Products’ equipment and infrastructure at Tuscaloosa includes an outdoor liquid hydrogen storage and compression system, along with piping to multiple indoor fueling dispensers. Mercedes Tuscaloosa plant was founded in 1995 and started production in 1997. Further information from Mercedes-Benz is at: www.media.daimler.com and www.mercedes-benz.com. The Mercedes material handling units being fueled by Air Products include Plug Power’s (NASDAQ: PLUG) GenDrive® hydrogen fuel cell power units. The GenDrive systems can be quickly refueled in just minutes, completely eliminating the need to change, store, charge and maintain multiple lead acid batteries for each lift.
“Our project execution has always been a strength and our technology has been a consistent performer and very reliable. We have multiple product offerings that can be expanded with the customer life cycle. These are available for customers interested in material handling fleet conversions and, in fact, we provided our mobile fueling technology to Mercedes for initial fuelings prior to placing the permanent equipment onstream,” said John O’Bryan, project manager for Hydrogen Energy Systems at Air Products. Details on Air Products’ hydrogen fueling station technologies and projects are at www.airproducts.com/h2energy.
There are many advantages to using hydrogen-powered forklifts and material handling equipment. Hydrogen-powered equipment only needs refueling once or twice daily, depending on use, and does not require change-out downtime while traditional battery-powered equipment is taken out of operation for battery replacement or recharging approximately every four to six hours. Hydrogen-powered equipment provides consistent power strength during use and does not experience decreased performance or wear down as battery units do when nearing change-out or recharge time. Additionally, unlike battery-powered forklifts, hydrogen-powered fuel cells are not adversely impacted by temperature when operating in coolers, freezers or arid warehouse conditions. Further, hydrogen-powered equipment is more environmentally friendly and does not involve lead-acid battery storage or disposal issues.
Air Products, the leading global supplier of hydrogen to refineries to assist in producing cleaner burning transportation fuels, has vast experience in the hydrogen fueling industry. In fact, several sites today for certain hydrogen fueling applications are fueling at rates of over 75,000 refills per year. Use of the company’s fueling technology is increasing and is over 500,000 hydrogen fills per year. The company has been involved in over 150 hydrogen fueling projects in the United States and 19 countries worldwide. Cars, trucks, vans, buses, scooters, forklifts, locomotives, planes, cell towers, material handling equipment, and even submarines have been fueled with trend-setting Air Products’ technologies
Air Products has more than 50 years of hydrogen experience and an extensive patent portfolio with over 50 patents in hydrogen dispensing technology. Air Products provides liquid and gaseous hydrogen and a variety of enabling devices and protocols for fuel dispensing at varied pressures. Hydrogen for these stations can be delivered to a site via truck or pipeline, produced by natural gas reformation, biomass conversion, or by electrolysis, including electrolysis that is solar and wind driven.