FMC trialing fuel cells for automatic guided vehicles

FMC trialing fuel cells for automatic guided vehicles

NEWS / EDITORIAL The OorjaPac DMFC system functions as an on-board battery-charger, to trickle-charge the vehicle’s battery both while the vehicle is ...

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NEWS / EDITORIAL The OorjaPac DMFC system functions as an on-board battery-charger, to trickle-charge the vehicle’s battery both while the vehicle is operating and when parked. This eliminates the time wasted during battery-charging and swapping in warehouse and manufacturing facilities. ‘In our transition to commercializing the OorjaPac within the food and dairy industry, we see this relationship with SSI as a very strong one,’ says Sanjiv Malhotra, president/ CEO of Oorja. ‘SSI is not only a leader within this space, but also is leading the path to introducing various innovative technologies. We are very excited about the potential of working with SSI.’ The order from LPC is for the installation of OorjaPac systems on its fleet of electric forklifts, according to a Material Handling Network report. These electric forklifts have been purchased recently by LPC to replace its entire fleet of propane-based forklifts. ‘We have diligently explored various types of fuel cells for our material handling needs over the last year, since we made the decision to transition to battery-powered forklifts,’ comments Mike McWeeney, vice president at LPC. ‘Our decision to consider fuel cells was based on the green benefits as well as an attractive payback. Oorja’s use of methanol fuel for the OorjaPac, and its various benefits over competing fuel cell technologies, really impressed us. We see this as an initial start to a longer-term alliance’.

to swap out batteries for daily recharging, or eliminating the time vehicles spend sitting idle for ‘opportunity’ charging. Both fuel cell systems are designed to be quick and easy to refuel, and DelMar says both were easy to install. ‘They’re pretty much plugand-play,’ he says. The main difference between them, he continues, is that the PEM fuel cell is a full energy system that completely replaces the AGV’s traditional lead-acid battery. The DMFC is a charging system that works to continually charge a lead-acid battery. Their other differences, says DelMar, come down to cost and amount of maintenance. ‘With the OorjaPac, you still have batteries that need to be maintained,’ he says. ‘And batteries don’t last forever, so they need to be replaced eventually.’ On the other hand, he admits, ‘the hydrogen fuel cells are still very expensive. I’m not sure how people justify them.’ DelMar admits that the two fuel cell technologies are so new that he’s not sure yet how reliable the systems will be. He will be closely watching the performance of the two fuel cellpowered AGV systems once they’re up and running. ‘We’ll learn about reliability soon,’ he says. Contact: Oorja Protonics, Fremont, California, USA. Tel: +1 510 687 9501, Or contact: Plug Power Inc, Latham, New York, USA. Tel: +1 518 782 7700, FMC Technologies:

Contact: Oorja Protonics, Fremont, California, USA. Tel: +1 510 687 9501,

FMC trialing fuel cells for automatic guided vehicles


hile fuel cells have been making news in the forklift truck industry for several years, they are now also being implemented as a power source for automatic guided vehicles (AGVs). Texas-based FMC Technologies is preparing to operate two fleets of AGVs powered by two different types of fuel cell. One will be powered by hydrogen PEM fuel cells from New York-based Plug Power, while the other will utilize direct methanol fuel cell battery-chargers from Oorja Protonics in California. While the two systems are very different, says Don DelMar, director of engineering for FMC, both promise to improve productivity, according to a report in Modern Materials Handling. This is attributable to either removing the need

July 2009

Swiss municipal vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells


he Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA) and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have developed a hydrogen-powered municipal street cleaning vehicle, which was unveiled recently in Basel, Switzerland. The vehicle features a 20 kW PEM fuel cell system hybridized with a 12 kWh lithium-polymer battery, and with storage of 7.5 kg of hydrogen. The other partners in the project are vehicle maker Bucher Schörling, fuel cell system integrator Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH, electric drive manufacturer BRUSA Elektronik AG, and Messer Schweiz AG, which makes hydrogen fueling stations and supplies hydrogen. The ‘Bucher CityCat H2’ vehicle is thought to be the world’s first municipal utility vehicle to be powered by fuel cell technology. For the



rove XI is occupying a fair amount of my thoughts at the moment, now that the full oral program has been announced. The program is a mix of mainly invited presentations, spiced up with some of the best papers submitted via the Call for Papers. The Steering Committee sees this approach as the best combination of their international contacts with interesting new work from other sources. It also gives a program that covers most of the key topics in each application area. These days Grove is focused on applications (buildings, vehicles) rather than technologies (PEM, solid oxide), with the aim of increasing the event’s relevance to end-users while still providing a valuable rendezvous for developers and researchers. The parallel sessions cover key applications from an end-user perspective. The session on fuel cells in buildings will see presentations from Centrica (British Gas), Baxi Innotech, ZBT, Samsung SDI and LoganEnergy, while that on hydrogen and fuel technology features the universities of Bath, Birmingham and Santiago in Chile, Bryte Energy and McPhy Energy. Transportation is obviously a key theme. The road vehicles session features the California Fuel Cell Partnership, Imperial College, the universities of Glamorgan and Birmingham, and Seoul National University/Hyundai-Kia Motors, with other transport applications covered by the University of California at Irvine, Intelligent Energy/Peugeot, the University of Birmingham, Riversimple and Daimler. The electricity generation and transmission session includes presentations from EnBW, South China University of Technology, Topsoe, Sandia National Labs, Ansaldo Fuel Cells and MTU Onsite Energy. At the other end of the scale, FBW GmbH, Korea University, Johnson Matthey, AIST and KTH Institute of Technology will report on electronic and portable systems. The voice of the customer is very important, so there will be a session featuring presentations by Delta Energy and Environment, Hydrogenics, Germanischer Lloyd, CoreTec and Encraft. Progress in R&D remains critical, with technical highlights being reported by TU München, Upper Austria University of Applied Science, Ilika Technologies, National Tsing Hua University, INETI in Portugal and TU Delft. And here’s a world exclusive for you: the 2009 Grove Medal will be awarded to the Honda Motor Company, in recognition of the undeniable impact of its FCX Clarity car on both the auto/technology communities and the public. A top executive from the automaker will give the Grove Medal Lecture that opens the conference. The Eleventh Grove Fuel Cell Symposium ( takes place in London on 22–24 September. I hope to see you there. Steve Barrett

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