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Ballard fuel cell forklift - Click above for a high-res image gallery

There's something kind of lighthearted about a giant, lightweight green quote bubble being held aloft by a little blue fork lift. Of course, the Ballard fuel cell forklift wasn't on display here at the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells 2009 in Vancouver purely to amuse. Nope, forklifts are sort of the canaries of the fuel cell industry, leading the way in warehouses around the world (see here and here for just two examples), and their leadership is being honored at the conference. As you can see, the highlight of the forklift's speech is the H2i logo, something seen all around the conference here. The small print reads:
I'm powered by hydrogen. My fuel cell gives me more up time than a battery forklift and delivers consistent power. Productivity up, emissions down.
The H2i campaign is run by the Canadian Hydrogen Highway project. On the forklift front, the project has worked with Wal-Mart, Central Grocers and Nissan to test the fuel cell vehicles. There are more details available here.

Our travel and lodging for this event were paid for by the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      What a bunch of crap!
      • 5 Years Ago

      Why would a fuel cell stack require a "working fusion reactor" when they are already working in Buses, Forklifts and cars? Fusion, as you seem to see it (nuclear?) is an entirely different subject, with an entirely different technology. Why would you think it somehow ties in here?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sorry for the confusion, but I was referring to the article he had linked to, the "retirefunds blogspot" That article had claimed that Hydrogen was an energy source, and I was pointing out that was incorrect, hydrogen wasn't an energy source, it requires more energy to make pure hydrogen than the hydrogen itself contains. The only exception would be hydrogen fusion as in the Sun and Stars, but there is no functional energy producing hydrogen fusion reactor here on earth. I hope that clears it up.

        No, H2 fuel cells don't need fusion reactors, but they do need hydrogen, which must be made using energy, and a lot of energy is wasted in the process. Fortunately, there are now some fuel cells that don't need hydrogen, that can run on more compact and easier to store fuels, and that provide an overall greater efficiency.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That is my point exactly in the article. I point out that natural gas is the "stop gap" fuel probably for the next hundred years or so, as a somewhat less desirable fuel as pure hydrogen would be. (But certainly more desirable, for the health of our planet than oil, coal etc.)

        The article points out that this source will be used to generate a lot of electricity this century, Whether the fuel cells are in a forklift, a bus, a ship, a locomotive, a car or in a "super stack" used to replace power plants, wind farms or solar farms, you will be using fuel cells "and" natural gas, either directly or indirectly, whether you use electric cars, or fuel cell cars etc. I am not the only one who believes this is where things are going. The CEO's of every car company believe the same thing. The oil majors are jumping into natural gas in a big way and LNG plants are being built by them in both the USA and Canada. They would not be spending these billions on LNG plants and Tankers if it were not for the fact that Natural Gas is where the oil economy is going.

        This was the whole point of my article.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Short term thinkers always interest me. They are the ones I run into all the time who say things like, I wish I had invested in that 20 years ago. Well today "is" 20 years ago + 20 years. 20 years from now people will read the above comments and truly laugh out loud at the short sightedness just like they now laugh over the story of the executives at Big Blue stating: "There is a market for maybe three computers in the entire world"!

      Wake up folks. It's time to place your bets on the future!

        • 5 Years Ago
        That website got some things wrong, including seeing H2 as an "energy source" - no, not without a working fusion reactor (which doesn't exist here on earth), it is an energy carrier that has to be made using an energy source. Retirefunds - wonder what stocks he's going to "pump and dump"? Probably Ballard, although he does mention a few other H2 related companies, and natural gas.

        Well, I expect that 20 years from now, H2 fuel cells will still be more expensive and less efficient than batteries, high performance batteries will be the mainstay of the automotive and forklift industries, and except for a few exotic applications like spacecraft and the "cost is no objection" military, H2 fuels will not be in use. Any fuel cells that are in use will probably be running on some other fuel, something far easier to store.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's clear to me that almost none of you have researched this topic. You can't buy 4EV trucks for the price of one comparable FC truck. Stop spreading FUD. Materials handling is one area where fuel cells are actually the more economical and more productive solution NOW. Even if you think H2 is a solution for transit, here it makes sense. If you have a distribution center operating 24 hours a day FC Forklifts are cheaper and smarter option. According to multiple sources including Argonne National Labs and the DOE:

      Capital Cost of a 3KW forklift
      BEV ~$17,500
      FC ~$23,500 (not considering the tax incentives currently available)

      Operating and Maintenance
      BEV ~145K
      FC ~52K

      So over the life of each truck the company can save about 70K per truck!

      This doesn't include the saved floor space for charging or additional batteries and swapping equipment, or the decreased performance of a BEV truck due to decreased voltage near end of life, or the increashed productivity from 2-4 minute refueling compared to 15-30 minute battery swaps.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Cosmosis was talking about heavy duty use - distribution center, 24 hours. I believe you are both correct. The problem is that you are comparing two considerably different applications.

        I am a fan of battery powered vehicles. However, I can not understand such religious wars against fuel cells.

        • 5 Years Ago

        Where the hell are you getting these numbers from "Cosmosis"???

        $145k maintenance and operating for a BEV fork truck??? first of all dont throw numbers around like that without putting some sort of relevance and timeframes associated with them. That number means nothing to me and even if you did give it a time frame it still wouldnt be worth the time you took to write it.

        As I said in my previous post, We have a couple electric fork trucks in our warehouse and they cost us next to nothing to operate or maintain. two of our electric trucks are 5 years old and still running on the same battery pack without any loss in performance.

        Our total cost to run those trucks is under $3000 per truck per year (including electricity costs and maintenance).

        Also the original purchase price for our two newer electric trucks were only $13,500 each. they were both left overs from the previous year.

        So where do you get your rediculous numbers from??!!!

        please divulge tho origin of these numbers or do us all a favor and STFU.
      • 5 Years Ago
      > I'm powered by hydrogen. My fuel cell gives me more up time than a battery forklift and delivers consistent power. Productivity up, emissions down.

      Nobody will care once they realize that for the price of one of these things they can buy 4 normal electric forklifts that can be recharged using electrical sockets they already have.

      The text on the block should read: $High!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Fuel cells in material handling make sense. There is no need for a huge investment in infrastructure as for cars. Fuell cell packs which are designed to fit in the battery compartment of forklift trucks instead of a standard battery are already sold and used in the field. Such fuel cells usually increase the performance. In many applications, more than one battery is needed per vehicle so that when one is in use in a forklift the other is being charged. Fuel cell packs eliminate such needs.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Except it doesn't make sense, the H2 fuel cell and H2 storage costs far more than the equivalent battery. If the H2 comes from electrolysis it takes 3x more electricity, and if it comes from steam reformed natural gas, the "fueling costs" are still higher than for battery electrics.

        There was a report, prepared by a H2 fuel cell promoter, that claimed H2 fuel cells had lower costs, but it ignored the cost of the fuel cells themselves, ignored the cost of H2 fuel, ignored the replacement cost of short lived H2 fuel cells, and wildly exaggerated the labor costs involved in recharging batteries. That report fooled a few executives who bought into the H2 hype and ordered those H2 fuel cell forklifts. I wonder how long it will take before they realize their mistake?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Being an SBO and an owner of a manufacturing facility and a couple forklifts, why the $%*& would anybody want a hydrogen powered forklift when they can easily buy an electric, propane, or natural gas version for a quarter of the price and service it themselves??!! I know I sure as hell would not. We are actually in contract right now to convert our two propane trucks to natural gas so that we dont have to deal with propane tanks and delivery anymore. Between that and our other 3 electric fork trucks, they have quickly become one of the best investments we have ever made.

      This whole hydrogen thing is becoming completely rediculous. I think it is safe to say that the worst possible use of this "techology" would be for forklifts. My 3 electric 48VDC Crown forklifts are the best pieces of machinery I have ever owned and they cost us next to nothing to run and require half the maintenance of our propane trucks.

      Who is promoting all of this Hydrogen hand job parading?

      It must be people who have something to gain from it, because anyone with a quarter of a brain can see its obvious and huge flaws very quickly and easily.

      EV all the way!!!!

      • 5 Years Ago
      To add to the "reasons why this is bullshit" that have already been posted:

      Durability. Battery-powered forklifts are incredibly, incredibly durable. They'll run on the same batteries for decades, day after day. A friend of mine has recomissioned one that has sat unused for years due to some broken o-ring seals. A modern, computer-controlled "smart" charger wouldn't charge the batteries because it deemed them beyond any recovery, so they had to hook it up to an old charger of essentially WW2-era technology, and lo and behold, it charged them right up! It worked just fine afterwards. On 20+ year old original batteries.

      The fuel cell in this forklift will last perhaps ten years in a clean-air environment. In the electroplating business of my friend's, I bet it wouldn't last even half that long.
      • 5 Years Ago
      These fuelcells cost less then batteries and offer better performance with lower energy cost. Don't be surprised to hear the petrol sellers working in this site try to jack up the price to take the commercial control. They always work with goverment money to starve the peoples and impede normal private business.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I said to not listen the natural ressources guys trying to f&ck the debate with regulations. They have put treats on every green technology, expecially hydrogen.
        • 5 Years Ago
        These fuel cells cost 10 times as much as batteries, if not more (unless you have found a free supply of platinum).
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