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Material Handling Giving Fuel Cell Industry A Lift

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recent purchases and commitments from big-name corporations and the U.S. government for fuel cell-powered forklifts are providing a major lift to the industry, according to Fuel Cells 2000, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. Fuel Cells 2000 estimates that there are approximately 500 systems currently in operation around the world, with at least 500 orders coming down the pike.

“We’ve seen large purchases of fuel cell forklifts from companies around the U.S., and substantial interest offshore” said Jennifer Gangi, Program Director of Fuel Cells 2000. “Customers are finding that fuel cells provide savings on several fronts – economic, environmental and workforce productivity. In other words, customers can save money by converting to fuel cells.”

A recent study by Argonne National Laboratory estimates that fuel cell lift trucks produce 63% less greenhouse gas emissions than battery systems. In addition, fuel cells last 12-14 hours and there is no more need for battery storage and changing rooms.

Companies using fuel cell technology include Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware, Bridgestone/Firestone, Federal Express and the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency.

Secretary Chu Announces $41.9 Million to Spur Growth of Fuel Cell Markets

The Department of Energy recently announced $41.9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding that will support the immediate deployment of fuel cell forklifts around the country. “The investments we’re making today will help us build a robust fuel cell manufacturing industry in the United States,” said Secretary Chu. “Developing and deploying the next generation of fuel cells will not only create jobs – it will help our businesses become more energy efficient and productive. We are laying the foundation for a green energy economy.”

The $41.9 million will support immediate deployment of nearly 1,000 fuel cell systems for emergency backup power and material handling applications (e.g., forklifts) that have emerged as key early markets in which fuel cells can compete with conventional power technologies. Additional systems will be used to accelerate the demonstration of stationary fuel cells for combined heat and power in the larger residential and commercial markets.
There is also a federal tax credit to make the transition more attractive - $3,000 per kilowatt tax credit for purchase of the fuel cell, and a 30% credit for the cost of installing hydrogen infrastructure, up to $200,000.

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