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Nissan's Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant will soon be cutting its CO2 emissions and improving productivity. The plant is retrofitting 60 material handling tugs that are used to move parts around with new methanol fuel cells. The tugs are currently fitted with lead acid batteries that have to be swapped out as they run down, a process that takes a technician 15-20 minutes each. A total of 35 man-hours a day are spent just replacing batteries. The fuel cell setup uses liquid methanol as a fuel and the operators will be able to refuel the tugs themselves in about 1 minutes.

The battery technicians will be moved to other, more value added jobs and the plant will cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 300 tons annually. The OorjaPac methanol fuel cells are being provided by Oorja Protronics. The Nissan press release is after the jump.

[Source: Nissan]

PRESS RELEASE:


NISSAN BECOMES FIRST AUTOMAKER TO COMMERCIALLY DEPLOY METHANOL FUEL CELLS FOR MATERIAL HANDLING EQUIPMENT

- Methanol fuel cells reduce plant's CO2 emissions -

SMYRNA, Tenn. (August 25, 2009) – Nissan North America (NNA) has become the first vehicle manufacturer to commercially deploy methanol fuel cells to power its material handling equipment (tugs) at its Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant. The methanol fuel cells from Oorja Protonics, OorjaPacTM, provide a more energy efficient and cost effective battery-charging process for the 60 tugs that are used to transport thousands of vehicle parts throughout the 5.4 million-square-foot facility.
"Nissan is constantly looking at the impact our business activities have on the environment, and at the same time, how we can become more efficient," said Mark Sorgi, manager, Material Handling. "The fuel cells, that are fueled by methanol, are helping us in both areas by reducing our CO2 emissions and better utilizing our resources."
By using OorjaPac, Nissan is able to get rid of more than 70 electric battery chargers that were consuming almost 540,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. This will reduce Nissan's electric bill and eliminate more than 300 tons of CO2 emissions that were being released into the atmosphere.

Methanol is an alternative liquid transportation fuel that is derived from various sources including wood, grass, landfills, natural gas and coal. Nissan is retrofitting the 60 tugs with methanol fuel cells that are easily, quickly and safely filled with methanol by the technicians who drive them. The fuel cell provides a constant charge that puts less strain on the tugs electrical system, increasing the life of the battery and other electrical parts.

"The methanol fuel cells have made us more productive by saving us almost 35 hours a day that were spent by employees changing out batteries," said Sorgi. "There's no changing out of low or dead batteries, which involves a battery technician and 15 to 20 minutes. Now the tug driver can refill the fuel cell in less than one minute and they're on their way."
Since no batteries are exchanged and the drivers refuel the tugs themselves, some battery technicians have been moved to other value-added positions in the plant, better utilizing Nissan personnel. Also, the time saved by not having to change batteries has created a more efficient material-handling operation, allowing Nissan to reassign four material handlers.

The methanol fuel cells proved to be a worthwhile investment for Nissan after an 18-month trial period in the Smyrna plant. Nissan is procuring the methanol fuel cells from Oorja Protonics, a manufacturer of ultra-powerful methanol fuel cells from Fremont, Calif. Fuel cells generate electricity by converting the chemical energy stored in a fuel into electrical and thermal energy. The byproducts of the electrochemical reaction are pure water and heat.

"We are excited to take our relationship with Nissan to the next level, and proud to play such a pivotal role in Nissan's environmental initiatives," said Sanjiv Malhotra, Founder and CEO of Oorja Protonics. "Our OorjaPac system gives Nissan the opportunity to increase productivity and realize a strong return on investment."

Nissan's Smyrna plant has seen its energy efficiency improve by as much as 32 percent since it began aggressively pursing environmental initiatives in 2005. These energy-saving practices are currently saving the company more than $3.5 million per year. As an ENERGY STAR™ partner, Nissan is committed to improving the energy efficiency of its business and protecting the environment for future generations.

About Nissan
In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program 2010, whose key priorities are reducing CO2 emissions, cutting other emissions and increasing recycling. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at HYPERLINK "http://www.nissanusa.com/" \o "http://www.nissanusa.com/" www.NissanUSA.com and HYPERLINK "http://www.nissandriven.com/" \o "http://www.nissandriven.com/" HYPERLINK "http://www.InfinitiUSA.com" www.InfinitiUSA.com.

About Oorja Protonics
Oorja Protonics designs, develops, and manufacturers the most powerful direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) in the world. In development for three years and on its fifth generation of technology, Oorja's products are customer proven, reliable, affordable, and available today. Oorja's customers include Fortune 50 companies in retail, automotive, logistics, and food processing.
Founded in 2005, Oorja is a privately-held company and is backed by venture capital firms Sequoia Capital, Spring Ventures, McKenna Management and DAG Ventures. For more information, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.oorjaprotonics.com" www.oorjaprotonics.com.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 5 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Fuel cells not running on hydrogen? HERESY!
      Call the Blencoe Brigade to begin spamming FUD immediately!

      Direct-methanol fuel cells deserve to get a lot more attention in the automotive world. All of the advantages of fuel cells, none of the hassle associated with hydrogen.

      The only thing you could hold against them is that they emit CO2, which is bogus anyway because CO2 is harmless to humans and animals. If you care about its impact on climate change, methanol can easily be made from a wide variety of renewable sources. It's toxic, okay, but so is gasoline (not to mention carcinogenic).
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't anticipate seeing any comment from Blencoe here. This really is a nice solution to battery operations that must run 12 hour shifts (or whatever they run), without that colossal cluster-f that is hydrogen.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Of course the H2 promoters would like people to think that fuel cells could only run on H2, but there are no theoretical restrictions on the types of fuel that could be used, and we've already seen fuel cells fueled by: Natural gas, propane and other hydrocarbons, methanol, carbon, sugar, zinc, aluminum, lithium, and even sewage. Of course, the right type of fuel cell must be used for each type of fuel, and some types of fuel cells are still expensive, but those fuels are much easier to store and handle than H2. (well, maybe not the sewage...)

        Nice to have alternatives.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is another one of those niche applications where battery swapping makes sense. But of course you need to have a swapping procedure that is engineered in an efficient manner. It should really take only a minute or so. I'd think it would be cheaper to work out some quick connect contacts than to purchase methanol fuel cells.

      That said, methanol can be a viable transportation fuel solution. It's certainly easier to move around than unbound hydrogen. And as a room temperature liquid fuel, you can leverage the existing gasoline distribution infrastructure.

      You can even produce methanol by binding hydrogen with the exhaust CO2 from power plants. Of course you spend energy to do that, but I'd bet it's comparable to the losses associated with transporting pure hydrogen.
      • 5 Years Ago
      15-20 minutes to replace batteries??? I used to worked with these and changing batteries took 2 minutes max!
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