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BMW Plant’s Trucks, Lifts Powered by Hydrogen Fuel Cells

BMW Manufacturing’s plant in Spartanburg, SC, has more than doubled its fleet of material handling equipment using hydrogen fueling systems provided by Linde North America.

The 4 million-square-foot production facility now powers its entire hydrogen-fuel cell fleet of more than 230 units to service the plant’s production and logistics functions, according to the companies.

The hydrogen is a by-product of a sodium chlorate plant that Linde purifies, compresses and liquefies using electricity produced from renewable hydropower.

In 2010, Linde supplied a hydrogen fueling system with six indoor dispenser stations to support more than 100 pieces of material handling equipment operating inside BMW’s plant. The expansion includes two new higher-throughput compressors, new storage tubes and distribution piping, and eight new hydrogen dispensers. To date, there have been more than 200,000 hydrogen fuelings at the site.

The lifts and trucks deliver process parts to assembly machines throughout the plant. The lead acid batteries that formerly powered lifts and trucks were replaced with hydrogen fuel cells from Plug Power, a provider of hydrogen-based fuel cells in the material handling market.

BMW says the expansion boosts productivity in two ways: refueling these trucks with hydrogen using Linde’s equipment takes an operator less than three minutes, compared with 15 to 20 minutes to change out a battery. Also, fuel cells do not degrade over time, as do lead-acid batteries when they begin losing their charge toward the end of a shift.

BMW also expects to reduce its total electricity demand, since no battery recharging is required, and eliminate the environmental disposal costs for lead acid batteries.

For its newest retail distribution center in Wilmer, Texas, Ace Hardware will deploy 65 GenDrive fuel cell units from Plug Power for its fleet of electric lift trucks, Energy Manager Today reported earlier this month.

 

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