On March 14, 2013 I had talked about how BMW was bullish on fuel cell forklifts and other materials handling units. At that time, at their Spartanburg, SC manufacturing facility, BMW had just purchased 100 fuel cell material handling units.
Now, BMW has decided to expand by purchasing 175 more Plug Power units for the same facility, making this the largest fleet in North America.
According to Plug Power, “BMW maintains a commitment to environmental responsibility and continues to incorporate efficient, alternative technology in its production processes whenever possible. In 2010, after installing a storage and distribution area for hydrogen supplied by Linde Industrial Gases near its 4 million-square-foot production facility in Spartanburg, BMW equipped more than 100 forklift trucks and pallet jacks in its X3 assembly hall with Plug Power’s GenDrive™ hydrogen fuel cell system. Now, BMW has added GenDrive units to another 175 trucks and forklifts in the assembly hall for its X5 and X6 automobiles and in its paint and body shops.
“Clean GenDrive hydrogen fuel cells are an alternative to lead-acid batteries in the $20 billion global material handling market. Use of the fuel cells lowers operational costs, produces zero emissions and improves reliability. Fuel cell usage also eliminates the need for large battery storage and charging rooms, freeing up valuable production space and removing any lead and sulfuric acid contamination from the work environment. Since battery charging is no longer required, total electricity demand is reduced and the fees associated with battery recycling and disposal are eliminated.”
There is a bit on irony in this story. Not too many years ago, BMW was touting their Hydrogen 7 automobile, (which had an internal combustion engine that ran on either liquid hydrogen or gasoline) as the next best thing since sliced bread. At least for this current application, BMW is seeing the wisdom of converting to hydrogen fuel cells in their materials handling units.