Honda goes renewable with fuel cell forklifts

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A research effort involving Briggs Equipment and Honda has seen the development a hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck that relies entirely on renewable energy sources.

The new system developed at Honda’s Swindon manufacturing facility generates hydrogen from solar power via an on-site electrolyser, ensuring that energy inputs are all clean and renewable with zero emissions.

Richard Close, Briggs Equipment CEO, said the consortium had worked with Honda to produce commercial volumes of truly ‘green’ hydrogen to power the converted Yale trucks in operation at the Swindon plant.

“These hybrid trucks are the first to use lithium battery technology with a hydrogen fuel cell to replace standard lead-acid batteries, resulting in materials handling equipment that produces zero emissions at the point of use,” he said.

The modified Yale trucks are configured to use a small lithium-ion battery which partners with the fuel cell to ensure that the battery remains charged. The battery can then operate as a normal power unit for all mobility and lift functions, supplied from its compact battery source. The hydrogen fuel cell acts as an on-board charger allowing the truck to work more efficiently as its normal routine of battery switching and remote charging is avoided.

Refuelled from a fuelling station within the production area the truck takes around five minutes to recharge its hydrogen cell, reducing downtime to a minimum.

Close said: “The benefits are clear. Gone are the big lead-acid batteries and their need for space, replacement and maintenance. Maintenance alone is around one-and-a-half times lower. Productivity is also clearly a plus factor, allowing cost benefits to begin to stack up.

“There is also the potential to replace diesel engines and avoid an ever tightening legislative determination to bear down on NOx and particulate emissions, plus the potential price and supply volatility of hydrocarbons fuels.”

Briggs reckons fuel cells in forklift applications of this kind can have a service life of around 12 years which exceeds a current typical truck life.

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