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Low-cost, hydrogen-powered forklifts with rapid refueling, zero emissions coming soon

LIVERMORE, Calif. Zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell systems soon could be powering the forklifts used in warehouses and other industrial settings at lower costs and with faster refueling times than ever before, courtesy of a partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and Hawaii Hydrogen Carriers (HHC).

The goal of the project is to design a solid-state hydrogen storage system that can refuel at low pressure four to five times faster than it takes to charge a battery-powered forklift, giving hydrogen a competitive advantage over batteries for a big slice of the clean forklift market. The entire U.S. forklift market was nearly $33 billion in 2013, according to Pell Research.

"Once you understand how these forklifts operate, the fuel cell advantage is clear," said Sandia's project manager Joe Pratt.

Refueling hydrogen fuel cell powered forklifts takes less than three minutes compared to the hours of recharging needed for battery-powered forklifts, Pratt said. Consequently, forklifts are able to operate continuously for eight or more hours between fills.

Currently, companies using battery-powered forklifts need to purchase three battery packs for each forklift to ensure continuous operation. They also need to set aside warehouse space for battery recharging.

Sandia has worked with the fuel cell forklift industry for several years to help get clean, efficient and cost effective fuel cell systems to market faster. Standards developed by Sandia soon will be published so industry can develop new, high-performing hydrogen fuel systems for industrial trucks.

Department of Energy grant leads to collaboration

Intrigued by the potential benefits of fuel cells over the electric batteries that now power most forklifts, HHC obtained a grant from the Energy Department's Fuel Cell Technologies office and asked Pratt to help improve the design of a hydrogen storage system for fuel cells.

Pratt ha

Contact: Mike Janes
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories

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Low-cost, hydrogen-powered forklifts with  rapid refueling, zero emissions coming soon
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