Green mobility in logistics

Green mobility in logistics

Image source: Globe Fuel Cell System


The importance of green technologies and innovations in sustainability has increased enormously in recent years. There is a clear shift towards environmentally friendly alternatives. In the mobility sector, Green-tech and development play a crucial role in ensuring sustainable mobility. This article will take a closer look at the significance of these approaches. It shows the differences in the innovations and how they will shape future mobility. Understanding this current topic is highly relevant and offers excellent added value.

Hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology in intralogistics

Germany is a car country. And so, it is unsurprising that most people consider their car when considering mobility. But mobility is much more than individual locomotion. Areas such as aviation, shipping, heavy-duty transport, and intralogistics, i.e., forklifts and industrial tractors, are also part of it. And just as in individual mobility, a change in drive technology is also occurring in all other areas.

This also applies to intralogistics. For decades, diesel technology was the preferred drive for forklifts. In recent years, the battery has gradually gained acceptance in intralogistics. However, if the experts are to be believed, electromobility will remain a bridging technology in intralogistics. The future belongs to the hydrogen-powered fuel cell. We at GLOBE Fuel Cell Systems believe in it.

About GLOBE Fuel Cell Systems

GLOBE Fuel Cell Systems is a GreenTech company based in Stuttgart, Germany. Our mission is to support the industry on its way to decarbonization and a CO2-neutral future with green technology – Made in Germany.

GLOBE originates in fuel cell research and the innovation department of Mercedes-Benz. A few years ago, the founders submitted their idea to develop fuel cell systems for intralogistics and emergency power generators to a Mercedes-Benz interior ideas competition. As a result, they were given time off to work on a prototype in the Lab1886 innovation area. In December 2020, they quit their jobs at Mercedes-Benz, founded GLOBE Fuel Cell Systems, and were allowed to take the prototype to the new company.

Today, GLOBE has a 35-person team working on industrial applications of fuel cell technology. In addition to marine and automotive applications, GLOBE has worked with industry partners to develop a fuel cell device for intralogistics – the GLOBE XLP80.

The two founders, CTO Dr. Bernhard-Wink-Borgert (left) and CEO Steffen Bäuerle (right), Fuel cell technology for intralogistics. The McKinsey study “Fuel Cell forklifts market perspective” forecasts that as early as 2027, almost every second forklift truck in Europe will be powered by a fuel cell device.

Why? Because fuel cell technology is superior to electric mobility in intralogistics in almost all areas.

1. increase in productivity

Regarding electromobility in intralogistics, we currently distinguish between two battery technologies. Lead-acid batteries, the more modern lithium-ion batteries, are the dominant drive type in intralogistics.

Both battery types are characterized by long recharge times. In the case of lead-acid batteries, this is several hours, while short charging cycles of 45 minutes are possible with lithium-ion batteries. However, after several short charging times, a long charging cycle of several hours must always be scheduled. This can lead to purchasing at least two batteries for one truck for replacement in multi-shift operations.

A fuel cell system can be refueled with hydrogen in about 3 minutes and is then ready for immediate use. This eliminates the need for hours of battery charging times. This reduces the downtime of intralogistics vehicles, minimizes their number, and increases the flexibility of the overall system.

2. performance

A fuel cell system provides continuous constant power. This is in contrast to conventional lead-acid batteries, which show a drop in performance from a state of charge of less than 50%. This reduces the power output of the trucks, which is a significant disadvantage in operation, especially in load profiles with peak loads, such as in the beverage industry.

3. running times

A conventional lead-acid battery has an average run time of approximately 6,000-7,000 hours. This depends on environmental factors and the load profile in operation. For lithium-ion batteries, this increases to about 13,000-14,000 hours. Modern fuel cell systems, such as the GLOBE XLP80, are designed to operate for at least 20,000 working hours.

4. space requirements

Due to the batteries’ long charging times, the systems must be replaced in forklift fleets operating in multiple shifts. For this reason, logistics companies or industrial companies have set up battery exchange stations or entire exchange halls. In addition, personnel must be provided for the replacement process. With fuel cell systems, personnel costs and swap halls are eliminated, leaving more space on the company’s premises for its value-added processes. There is also no need for personal and vehicle damage during battery replacement.

5. heavy metal goes digital

In addition to the technical advantages of the fuel cell, each GLOBE XLP80 system has an integrated “GLOBE DataCore.” This enables the online transmission of various performance and sensor data to the cloud. The data obtained in this way ensures optimized operation and high availability of the systems, as, e.g., maintenance scopes can be anticipated in advance. In addition, the system can be optimized to the needs of the respective customer in the future, and potential CO2 savings can be better exploited. Some providers have similar functionalities.



6. The infrastructure

When several lithium-ion batteries are charged in parallel during fast charging, this leads to significant current peaks. This is a particular challenge for large industrial companies with hundreds of forklifts. They need an improved energy infrastructure for this. But switching to a hydrogen-powered intralogistics fleet also initially requires investments (CAPEX) in hydrogen infrastructure. There are various solutions here, depending on requirements. The offerings range from hydrogen bundles, for companies with smaller fleets, to a complete hydrogen refueling system for logistics or industrial companies with large fleets. Companies often build them on their premises to make the most of such refueling systems, This means that the refueling stations can be used not only within the company but also by external consumers. This leads to positive effects on the overall balance of investment costs. One example of this is the BMW plant in Leipzig. The site has five hydrogen filling stations to supply the more than 130 fuel cell-powered industrial trucks. This is the largest fleet of its kind in Germany. In addition, BMW in Leipzig is the first automotive plant in the world to use a newly developed burner technology in its paint shop that can use green hydrogen and natural gas. By 2024, the plant will be connected to the pipeline from Leuna to be supplied directly with green hydrogen.

7. conclusion

Propulsion with hydrogen-powered fuel cell systems is the future in intralogistics., not only for new vehicles. Fuel cell systems, such as the GLOBE XLP80, when the same size and weight as a standard 5 PzS 775Ah battery, also serve as a retrofit solution for easy conversion of existing fleets. Only ventilation slots still need to be inserted into the battery cover of the trucks.

Yes, building a hydrogen infrastructure means additional investment for users. But the advantages over battery technology are so significant that the total cost of ownership is unfavorable depending on the size and use of the fleet. Intralogistics vehicle manufacturers are also aware of this. The R&D initiatives in fuel cell technology are evidence of this.

Global initiatives to produce green hydrogen, for example, Chile, Brazil, and Canada, will lead to further reductions in hydrogen costs.

Fuel cell technology is, therefore, ecologically necessary and makes economic sense.

Image sources: Globe Fuel Cell System
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