Hydrogen fuel cells are an affordable, efficient, and sustainable drop-in replacement for battery-powered vehicles whether they’re powering forklifts and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) at a manufacturing facility or on-road delivery trucks. According to KPMG’s Global Automotive report, fuel cell vehicles (FCV) replaced battery electric vehicles (BEV) as the #1 key trend until 2025.
Cutting down hours that are wasted while batteries are being changed out and charged, fuel cells in mobility applications can be refueled in minutes, which is about an 85% time savings. With this new-found time, equipment operators can get back to work quickly, improving operational efficiency and creating a more cost-effective solution for the business. Additionally, data automatically collected from the systems is used to make educated, fact-based decisions down the road to continuously improve operations.
Powering innovation within manufacturing and distribution centers
Continued fuel cell product innovations and performance improvements ensures newer fuel cell models have higher efficiency and even longer runtimes per shift, translating into further economic benefits for facilities. For customers including Amazon, Walmart, and Carrefour, the increased productivity and cost-effective solution provided by operating these zero-emissions vehicles, is simply a no brainer. Hydrogen refills take just minutes including travel time, 20% the time of a battery swap, enabling more picks per hour for forklift operators. That’s a savings of about 33 minutes per day per truck over conventional battery charging during a 3-shift operation. Adding more runtime to the fuel cells means an extra 272 hours of pick time per year for operators on a 3-shift facility model using 50 pallet jacks.
Taking fuel cells on the road
In 2017, Plug Power introduced ProGen, a fuel cell engine platform, to provide power for on- and off-road electric vehicle applications. Since then, Plug Power collaborated with FedEx and Workhorse to incorporate the ProGen fuel cell engine in FedEx’s first fuel cell-powered electric delivery van. The van launched in early 2018, delivering packages around Albany, NY and operating with a vehicle range of 160 miles per delivery cycle, a 166% increase over standard battery-powered vehicles. Now in operation for over a year, the truck has accumulated over 14,000 miles on-road, driving through all types of inclimate weather including ice, snow, rain, and extreme heat.
It’s all about the data
Understanding the value of data, Plug Power first launched its proprietary suite of internet of things (IOT) tools, SiteView, in 2016. By providing a connected solution that allows for 24/7/365 monitoring- both on-site and off, Plug Power products help create a supply chain seamlessly streamlined in its operations. We’ve since continued to build out this technology, which now provides game-changing diagnostics, fueling data, and operational and performance metrics. This level of detail and insight enables us to be proactive with future maintenance needs for fuel cell-powered forklift fleets, ensuring maximum fleet uptime at each customer location.
In the ever-changing world of technology, innovation comes from looking to the future, but successful companies know experience and the past is what brought them to where they are today.