Fuel Cell Forklift

Toyota has independently developed the world’s first forklift that uses a hydrogen fuel cell system…

World forklift technology leader, Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO), has independently developed the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell hybrid system for forklift trucks. The prototype Toyota FCHV-F featuring the system was displayed at CeMAT, the world’s leading trade fair for intralogistics, in Hannover, Germany, in October, 2005. TICO’s fuel cell hybrid system has been developed in cooperation with Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), the leading company in fuel cell vehicle development who developed their fuel cell prototype in 1996. This allows TICO to make use of TMC’s advanced technology and to share components in the automotive field. TICO aims to further develop high-performance, low-cost fuel cell systems with these advantages. TICO President and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Harper, said the environment has been a key Toyota priority for many years.

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Caption: The Toyota FCHV F forklift uses a hydrogen fuel cell system that reduces harmful emissions

“The corporation has established clear commitments to environmental welfare in its worldwide environmental policy,” Mr Harper said. “Fuel cell technology significantly reduces harmful environmental emissions. The use of hydrogen as the main power source in the fuel cell forklift, means the machine can produce electricity to drive the vehicle with zero emissions of carbon dioxide.” The vehicle can lift a maximum of 2,500 kilograms, the same as the company’s existing electric forklift. The Fuel Cell System components – fuel cell stack, 35 Mpa (350 bar, 5,000 psi) hydrogen tank, etc – are mounted on a single module cartridge-type frame that can replace existing batteries in conventional electric models. Toyota Industries aims to further develop a forklift with a higher-performance and lower-cost fuel cell system for practical use. Fuel cell maker, Hydrogenics, is also developing fuel cell forklifts, working in partnership with companies such as FedEx and General Motors. Other fuel cell companies, such as General Hydrogen and Cellex, are also looking to industrial vehicles, specifically forklifts, as a natural fit for fuel cells.

Fuel cell forklifts have gained attention in recent years amid a growing worldwide trend towards environmental conservation, as they make use of innovative technology. Although some technical issues remain to be solved before the use of fuel cell forklifts reaches large-scale production status, a resolution is expected soon. Fuel cell forklifts will require minimal refilling and significantly less maintenance than current battery-electric forklifts – where the batteries must be recharged and the battery fluid level maintained. In addition, the fuel cell hybrid system ensures constant power delivery and performance, eliminating the reduction in voltage output that occurs as batteries discharge. This makes fuel cell forklifts ideally suited to conditions such as those found at large distribution centres, where forklifts often run continuous 24-hour shifts. Individual plants are able to establish their own hydrogen fueling stations. The adoption of fuel cell powered forklifts will result in effectively lowering total logistics costs.

Steve Harper said TICO aims to further accumulate technological expertise and distinguish its products from its competitors. “TICO’s huge commitment to forklift research and development means expertise is being continually gained, with emphasis on the independent development of engines and AC-power drivetrain systems,” he said. “TICO’s fuel cell technology will build on the expertise TICO has gained through many years of developing power electronics technology for its electric forklifts. TICO also gains through its participation in TMC’s automotive fuel cell development. These important skills are constantly put to use as the company continues to advance its fuel cell technology.”

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