The Fuel Cell Future

The hot topic of the Industrial Truck Association is the setting of standards for a fuel cell future.

As the major focus of lift truck makers continues on battery-powered lift trucks, Martin Boyd, national product planning and marketing manager, at Toyota Material Handling USA Inc. (TMHU) says the hot topic of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) is the setting of standards for a fuel cell future. While both battery-powered and fuel cell-powered lift trucks share the zero emissions advantage, batteries pose an environmental lead-acid hazard at disposal. And instead of 8-hour recharging, fuel cell-equipped lift trucks can be quickly refueled in a few minutes. Lift trucks with depleted, conventional batteries need to find the battery room and undergo a 20-minute to 40-minute battery-change process.

Boyd says the fuel cell concept is still in an interim stage where fuel cell power packs are being offered to fit into the battery compartments of lift trucks originally designed to be battery-powered. "Tomorrow's fuel cell lift truck will be specifically designed for hydrogen," he notes. TMHU introduced its fuel cell prototype, the Toyota FCHV-F, at ProMat 2007. "At ProMat 2009, TMHU will display a Prius-inspired hybrid prototype fork lift," says Boyd.

"Productivity and environmental gains are the fuel cell's major attractions," Boyd continues. "Fuel cells maintain peak performance during use while battery performance may deteriorate as batteries discharge." Boyd says that for many customers, the elimination of the need for a battery room can be a major reason for going to either fast charging or fuel cell technologies. Battery cost is another factor, he adds.

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