Fuel cell technology
Intralogistics with hydrogen drive
Powering intralogistics with hydrogen
Having to choose between cost-effective intralogistics and taking a climate-neutral approach has long been a thing of the past. Innovative energy systems like fuel cell technology allow you to run your industrial trucks in seamless multi-shift operation, without producing CO2 emissions in the process. This is achieved by using of sustainably produced, green hydrogen.
The advantages of fuel cell technology for intralogistics
- Saves time as there is no need to change battery
- High truck availability due to quick filling time of approx. 2–3 minutes
- Continuous energy supply with no drops in performance
- Indoor and outdoor use with operating times of up to 8 hours
- Space-saving and flexible integration of dispensers (fuel pumps) along the transport routes
- No storage or charging rooms required
- No ventilation systems required
- Hydrogen can be generated in-house using electrolysis
- Zero emissions – only ‘waste products’ are water/steam
- Clean energy source – ideal for hygiene-critical industries
- Reduction of carbon footprint
- No use of rare earth minerals
Fuel cell technology
Trucks with fuel cells
STILL offers you the option of ordering selected trucks as a ‘fuel cell ready’ version ex works, which works in a similar way to the ‘Li-ion ready’ option. With this option, the truck is designed to accommodate a specific fuel cell, and the fuel cell can be integrated, subsequently if need be, as per the customer’s wishes.
The more hydrogen-powered industrial trucks in operation, the more efficient the fuel cell energy system. That is why we have 24 V, 48 V and 80 V fuel cell systems available for our portfolio of order pickers, tow tractors, high lift pallet trucks, reach trucks and counterbalanced forklift trucks.
Generally speaking, fuel cell technology is ideal for truck applications with a high number of operating hours or multi-shift operations.
Components of the hydrogen infrastructure
When making the switch to a fuel cell energy system, it is important to ensure that you have the right trucks as well as the necessary infrastructure. This basically comprises the following:
- Trucks with fuel cells
- Hydrogen filling stations (dispensers)
- Hydrogen storage facilities
- A supply of hydrogen, e.g. through deliveries or in-house production (electrolysis)
As your intralogistics partner, STILL provides fuel cell trucks and works with its internationally renowned partners to ensure that a comprehensive energy solution (fuel cells and fuel infrastructure) can be put in place.
Energy sources of the future for intralogistics
Hydrogen as an energy source
A compact molecule with a lot of energy. In the world of energy sources, hydrogen is the future. Thanks to the use of regeneratively produced electricity, it can be produced in a climate-neutral way, and is ideal for industrial applications, heat and power generation, as well as for mobility and intralogistics. Hydrogen is 14 times lighter than air, non-toxic, non-corrosive and non-radioactive. Hydrogen is not susceptible to spontaneous combustion, and burns cleanly with a colourless flame. In short, hydrogen is packed full of energy and can be produced as a greener, carbon-neutral sustainable energy source.
Fuel cells in intralogistics
When we talk about fuel cells in the industrial trucks sector, we mean ‘battery replacement modules’ (BRMs). A BRM is a closed system and corresponds to a specific battery compartment in its shape, size and weight. The BRM contains all the components required to generate electricity. These include the fuel cells, the hydrogen tank, tank ports and a small lithium-ion battery, as well as other components.
Once the tank is filled with hydrogen, which only takes a few moments, the fuel cell produces electrical energy for the intended application directly on board the truck. The process generates emissions of pure water vapour or water. The integrated lithium-ion battery acts as an energy store, supplying the truck with a constant flow of energy. Through this process, any excess or recovered energy is stored temporarily, which means that the truck can easily cater for peaks in electricity consumption, e.g. when lifting a load.
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Fuel cell technology in action
Back in 2018, the French retail company Carrefour introduced a hydrogen-powered fleet of 137 STILL warehouse technology trucks into its new logistics centre in Vendin-Le-Vieil in northern France. With its two-phase HyLIFT-EUROPE project, which was funded by the EU, the partners are setting a milestone for the use of hydrogen as an alternative energy source and demonstrating that this technology is reliable in tough day-to-day logistics.
In late 2021, the first-ever green hydrogen filling station on the island of Corsica is set to open, at the production site of the specialist thermal insulation company Corstyrène in Aléria. The electrolyser used to produce the hydrogen required will be supplied with up to 99 kWc from solar panels installed on the plant’s car park. In the first phase, this will produce enough energy to fill seven STILL RX 20 fuel cell forklift trucks.
Frequently asked questions about fuel cell technology
Regarding the EU there is the goal "Green EU 2050", i.e. the EU should be climate neutral by 2050. The aim is to avoid the emission of CO2. One approach to reducing greenhouse gases is the use of green hydrogen, H2, which can be converted into energy and heat in a climate-neutral way. The use of green hydrogen in intralogistics could therefore be a major lever if CO2 emissions are to be avoided altogether. In combination with other logistics applications, e.g. a hydrogen-powered fleet of heavy-duty trucks, synergies can be created and operating costs greatly reduced.
In order to achieve the "Green EU" goal, "green hydrogen" must be produced and used. The color of the hydrogen refers to the extraction process. Green hydrogen is produced from sustainable non-depletable energy sources, e.g. by using energy from wind power or photovoltaics.
In distinction to this, there is "gray hydrogen", which is still in use today. In the production of gray hydrogen, natural gas is usually converted into hydrogen and CO2 under heat (steam reforming). The CO2 is then released unused into the atmosphere, thus increasing the global greenhouse effect: the production of one ton of hydrogen produces about 10 tons of CO2.
Blue hydrogen is gray hydrogen, but its CO2 is captured and stored during production (Carbon Capture and Storage, CCS). The CO2 generated during hydrogen production is thus not released into the atmosphere, and hydrogen production can be considered CO2-neutral in balance sheet terms. Hydrogen produced by the thermal decomposition of methane (methane pyrolysis) is called turquoise hydrogen. Instead of CO2, solid carbon is produced in the process.
In a fuel cell, the refueled hydrogen is converted into water with the addition of atmospheric oxygen. This chemical reaction generates electrical energy that is used to power the vehicle.
In the field of intralogistics, a fuel cell always refers to a so-called "Battery Replacement Module" (BRM). This Battery Replacement Module is a closed overall system and corresponds to a specific battery trough in terms of shape, size and weight. Within the BRM are all the necessary components for power generation: Fuel cell stack (site of chemical reaction), hydrogen tank (350 bar), tank nozzle, lithium-ion battery, dehumidifier to hold the process water, compressor, fan, air filter, electrical system and other components.
Fuel cells for intralogistics applications are designed to run up to one shift. However, the real range depends on the respective customer application. The great advantage of a fuel cell is the enormously short refueling time of 2-3 minutes.
No. STILL currently only offers the "Fuel Cell-ready" option at the factory. Retrofitting existing vehicles is not possible.
The hydrogen required is comparable to diesel fuel for internal combustion engine forklifts. However, hydrogen differs in terms of production, transport, storage and the necessary safety precautions. The infrastructure can vary - depending on whether the hydrogen is to be produced on the premises by electrolysis itself or delivered by trailer. Possible components are therefore:
- Hydrogen trailer, if H2 is delivered
- Hydrogen electrolyzer, if H2 is produced on site, e.g. by wind power or photovoltaics
- High pressure compressor
- High-pressure intermediate storage
- Pipeline system
- Dispenser (dispenser for H2 refueling)
For the operation, refueling and storage of a fuel cell or fuel cell-powered vehicle in conjunction with a hydrogen infrastructure, national and/or regional laws/regulations must be observed. Depending on the location, local regulatory agencies, fire departments, and insurance companies should be involved in the planning and construction. For the construction of the hydrogen infrastructure, there are specialised planners and construction experts who can provide advice.