Nissan North America will be the first vehicle manufacturer to use methanol fuel cells to power equipment used to haul parts to assembly lines at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
The fuel cells convert chemical energy in methanol into electrical energy without combustion, which will help Nissan in its efforts to cut both electric bills and carbon dioxide emissions., according to the AP. The new fuel cells will be mounted on 60 “tugs,” which pull trains of dollies loaded with parts throughout the 5.4 million-square-foot plant.
By using the new OorjaPac system, developed by Oorja Protonics of Fremont, Calif., Nissan will be able to rid itself of more than 70 electric battery charges consuming nearly 540,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. The move also will eliminate more than 300 tons of CO2 emissions begin released annually into the atmosphere.
The switch results in a net savings of $225,000 a year, according to BreakingNews24/7.
The change also eliminates nearly 35 hours per day spent by employees changing out batteries, according to Nissan material handling manager Mark Sorgi. Each battery change involved a battery technician and 15 to 20 minutes of employee time. Tug drivers will now be able to refill the new methanol fuel cells in less than one minute and get back to work.
Depending on how the process works at the Smyrna plant, Nissan may adopt methanol fuel cells at other factories.
Fuel for the methanol fuel cells is derived from wood, grass, landfills, natural gas and coal.