Crown builds its 500th fuel cell powered forklift

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  • NEWS / EDITORIAL

    September 2011 Fuel Cells Bulletin3

    E D I T O R I A L

    Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or sys-tems (UAS) are seeing extensive use in both military and civil applications around the world. In particular, the US military is using them in Afghanistan for reconnaissance and to provide offensive weapons in remote locations; Israel is another major developer and user in a wide range of applications.

    The rapidly expanding diversity of civilian applications includes police surveillance, border patrol, inspection of remote power lines and pipelines, traffic surveillance, emergency and disaster monitoring, search and rescue, agricul-tural applications, and aerial photography.

    In this issue we carry two news items where fuel cell power is being used to extend UAV flight times. In the US, Lockheed Martin has unveiled the ruggedized Stalker eXtreme Endurance aircraft, which is powered by a pro-pane-fueled solid oxide fuel cell developed by Ultra Electronics AMI in combination with a small, conventional lithium polymer battery to handle power peaks [see page 4]. This hybrid power system quadruples flight endurance to more than eight hours, appar-ently without any impact on aircraft mobility or payload flexibility.

    Over the border in Canada, EnergyOr Technologies has demonstrated a long-endur-ance flight with its PEM fuel cell powered UAVs [also page 4]. The FAUCON H2 aircraft executed a predetermined flight plan for 10 hours and 4 minutes, before landing autono-mously just as dusk was falling. EnergyOr says that the FAUCON H2 is one of the first UAV platforms to be designed specifically around the fuel cell. This allows the entire flight system with integrated avionics to be opti-mized, which gives very high efficiencies at the system level for both the UAV airframe and the fuel cell system.

    There has been a steady stream of news items on fuel cell powered UAVs in the past year, reflecting the rapid and ongoing progress since we published our feature article on fuel cell powered UAVs [FCB, December 2007].

    A key fuel cell supplier has been Singapore-based hydrogen PEM fuel cell developer Horizon Energy Systems, which has worked with Israeli companies Elbit Systems [FCB, January 2011] and Israel Aerospace Industries [FCB, September 2010], and with research groups in South Korea and Russia [FCB, December 2010]. This stems from the com-pany beginning commercial sales of its new Aeropak hydrogen fuel cell power system for UAVs last summer [FCB, August 2010]. And we shouldnt forget that last fall a Jadoo Power Systems fuel cell powered a Mako UAV in a test program run by the US Office of Naval Research [FCB, November 2010].

    Steve Barrett

    To accommodate its growing fuel cell bus fleet, CTTransit is building a new garage to store up to six fuel cell buses, and is installing a hydro-gen fueling station at its headquarters.

    UTC Power, South Windsor, Connecticut, USA. Tel: +1 860 727 2200, www.utcpower.com

    AC Transit, fuel cell bus program: www.actransit.org/environment/the-hyroad

    CTTransit, hydrogen fuel cell bus program: http://fuelcell.cttransit.com

    Ballard, Simon Fraser win Canadian funding for bus fuel cell R&D

    BC-based Ballard Power Systems has launched a major research and commercialization project that aims to make fuel cell-powered buses com-petitive with diesel hybrids by 2015. Ballard will collaborate with research-ers at Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria, with proj-ect funding through the Automotive Partnership Canada.

    The project is targeting a breakthrough in driving down the cost of fuel cells for bus pro-pulsion, and improving their durability and reliability. Ballards PEM fuel cell modules have already seen significant cost reductions in recent years. This has contributed to a reduction in the capital cost of each fuel cell bus from C$3 million (US$2.9 million) in 2000 to about half that today in limited production volumes.

    The new collaboration with SFU and UVic which will be Ballards largest R&D program will contribute to the development of a next-generation fuel cell module that would help reduce the price of each transit bus to between C$750 000 and C$1 million. This will make them cost-competitive with diesel hybrid buses on a lifecycle-cost basis, says Jeff Grant, a busi-ness development manager at Ballard.

    This project is about getting our seventh-generation product to commercial readiness and full production within four years, says Grant. It will drive down our costs and help us to win competitive solicitations internationally.

    Ballards current FCvelocity-HD6 (sixth-generation heavy-duty) bus module is offered with a warranty of five years or 12 000 hours. The company aims to extend the modules lon-gevity to at least 20 000 hours, comparable to the life of a diesel engine.

    Initial development on the HD7 was done at Ballard, but it lacks the in-house capacity for the applied research required to further extend the

    lifetime of the product while reducing costs, says Shanna Knights, Ballards project manager.

    In order to improve the durability of the fuel cell module and be able to predict its longev-ity, first we need to understand the degradation mechanisms that take place when its in opera-tion under real-world transit bus conditions, she explains. SFU and UVic have the bandwidth, the equipment and people to help us develop those technical models, so we can understand whats happening at a fundamental level.

    The main issue which Ballard has been working on for more than 15 years is the durability of the proton-exchange membrane. The new project will use SFUs advanced mate-rials lab in Burnaby and its mechatronics lab in Surrey, as well as expertise at the University of Victoria, to conduct sophisticated modeling, analysis and testing to improve membrane sta-bility, and the ability to accurately predict the products lifetime over several years of service.

    Were not just refining a current product through this research, were changing the fun-damentals and proving them, says Erik Kjeang, an assistant professor with SFUs Mechatronics Systems Engineering program, and the aca-demic lead on the project.

    Kjeang will be recruiting eight postdoctoral fellows from across Canada and internationally to work with undergraduate and graduate stu-dents, both on campus and at Ballards research facility in Burnaby.

    Automotive Partnership Canada is providing more than C$4 million to the C$11.9 million (US$11.5 million) project, with Ballard con-tributing the balance in personnel, equipment, and other resources.

    Contact: Shanna Knights, Ballard Power Systems Inc, Burnaby, BC, Canada. Tel: +1 604 454 0900, Email: shanna.knights@ballard.com, Web: www.ballard.com

    Or contact: Dr Erik Kjeang, Mechatronics Systems Engineering, Simon Fraser University, Surrey, BC, Canada. Tel: +1 778 782 8791, Email: ekjeang@sfu.ca, Web: http://mse.ensc.sfu.ca

    Automotive Partnership Canada: www.apc-pac.ca

    Crown builds its 500th fuel cell powered forklift

    Ohio-based forklift manufacturer Crown Equipment Corporation has announced that it has built its 500th new forklift to be operated with fuel

    MOBILE APPLICATIONS

  • NEWS

    4Fuel Cells Bulletin September 2011

    cells. The 500th truck to be built with a fuel cell is a Crown SR 5000 Series mov-ing-mast reach truck, which will be deliv-ered later this year as part of a larger order. The truck is designed for use with fuel cells, and has similar features and benefits to the standard model.

    The 500 fuel cell powered forklifts the com-pany has built are in addition to the Crown forklifts already in operation that have been retrofitted in recent years to accommodate fuel cells. This milestone highlights the increasing adoption of fuel cell technology in the material handling industry.

    The Crown SR 5000 is the latest forklift to be qualified as part of Crowns Fuel Cell Qualification Program for its line of electric fork-lifts [FCB, September 2010]. To date, Crown has qualified more than 20 of its electric forklift models to operate with various fuel cells, offer-ing an unprecedented 29 qualified combinations of fuel cell packs and lift trucks. Some of the current line of Crown forklifts powered by fuel cells include the Crown PC 4500 Series center control pallet forklift, the Crown SP 3500 Series stockpicker, and the Crown FC 4500 Series counterbalanced forklift.

    Applications have varied from Walmart Canadas sustainable distribution center in Alberta [FCB, July 2010], to the Coca-Cola Bottling Co Consolidated production center in North Carolina [FCB, November 2009]. The forklifts utilize GenDrive PEM fuel cells sup-plied by Plug Power.

    An increasing number of our customers are considering fuel cell-powered forklifts as a viable option, says Ernst Baumgartner, Crowns fuel cell project manager. They are coming to us with questions, and asking for help deter-mining if and how this technology can be inte-grated into their fleets and facilities.

    Baumgartner continues: Crown continues to work closely with fuel cell manufacturers to guide the evolution of the technology and increase levels of fuel cell integration with lift trucks.

    The Ohio Department of Development and the Ohio Third Frontier Commission provided funding in support of the qualification of lift trucks for battery replacement fuel cell projects. Crowns fuel cell program is a component of its ecologic initiative to drive environmental sustainability throughout its business.

    Crown Equipment Corporation, New Bremen, Ohio, USA. Tel: +1 419 629 2311, www.crown.com

    Crown ecologic program: www.crown.com/usa/about/ecologic_index.html

    Ohio Third Frontier, Fuel Cell Program: http://thirdfrontier.com/FuelCellProgram.htm

    Plug Power: www.plugpower.com

    Lockheed Martin ruggedized UAS uses AMI fuel cell power

    In the US, defense systems giant Lockheed Martin has developed a ruggedized version of its Stalker Unmanned Air System (UAS). The Stalker eXtreme Endurance (XE) air-craft is powered by Ultra Electronics AMIs pioneering hybrid energy source, which uses a propane-fueled solid oxide fuel cell in combination with a small, conventional lithium polymer battery to handle power peaks.

    The Stalker XE system quadruples the Stalkers flight endurance to more than 8 h, without having any impact on the mobility of the unmanned system or the flexibility of its payload capabilities.

    Missions requiring real-time eyes on a situa-tion for extended periods of time like border patrol, pipeline surveillance, and special opera-tions can now be conducted by a small UAS versus a larger, more costly system, says Tom Koonce, Lockheed Martins Stalker program manager. The convenience and lower cost of a small UAS combined with extended endurance is a true game-changer.

    The long-endurance fuel cell technology used in the Stalker XE system was developed through an innovative effort sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The project was led by Lockheed Martin and Adaptive Materials Inc, now a division of UK-based Ultra Electronics [FCB, January 2011].

    The DARPA project culminated in a rigor-ous flight test program including numerous back-to-back, long-endurance intelligence, sur-veillance and reconnaissance flights at high alti-tude and in high wind conditions, proving that the Stalker UAS met or exceeded all technical and performance milestones.

    The complete Stalker XE system includes two aircraft, fuel cells, a command and control ground station, support equipment, and a small propane fuel storage tank. The standard air vehicle sensor is a modular dual daylight and night-time imager that allows persistent surveillance during the visual/thermal transition from day to night.

    In other news, an AnnArbor.com report says that Ultra Electronics plans to invest almost $3 million to expand SOFC production and implement new technology at its Adaptive Materials unit. The investments seem to con-firm that AMIs 47 000 ft2 (4400 m2) facility will stay in Ann Arbor.

    The report says that Ultra Electronics plans to spend about $1.8 million by January or February next year to install new SOFC manufacturing equipment at the facility. The company, which promised expansion after the acquisition at the turn of the year, also plans to spend about $1 million on software to improve AMIs IT capabilities. The investments will boost AMIs fuel cell production capacity from tens to hundreds to thousands, Phil Evans, Ultras divisional managing director for aircraft and vehicle systems, told AnnArbor.com.

    Adaptive Materials recently shipped its first fuel cells for use in the battlefield by US soldiers [FCB, August 2011]. The company delivered 15 of its 300 W SOFC units to the US Army for field testing as part of a $4.7 mil-lion contract, with some of them expected to be used in action.

    Ultra Electronics AMI, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Tel: +1 734 302 7632, www.ultra-ami.com

    Ultra Electronics: www.ultra-electronics.com

    Lockheed Martin: www.lockheedmartin.com

    EnergyOr fuel cell powered UAV reaches 10 h flight endurance

    Canadian-based PEM fuel cell devel-oper EnergyOr Technologies has demonstrated a long-endurance flight with its fuel cell powered, operational unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The FAUCON H2 aircraft complete with integrated avionics executed a prede-termined flight plan for 10 hours and 4 minutes, then landed autonomously.

    The integrated hybrid UAV propulsion system was designed to take full advantage of fuel cells for their high energy density, with lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries to provide short bursts of power during takeoff, climb, and severe weather conditions. In this way, UAVs powered by EnergyOrs line of EPOD fuel cell systems have a flight endurance up to four times longer than those powered by rechargeable LiPo batteries.

    The FAUCON H2 is one of the first UAV platforms to be designed specifically around the fuel cell. This allows the entire flight system to be optimized, resulting in very high system level efficiencies for both the UAV airframe and fuel cell system. It has a wing span of 3 m and is 1.2 m long, a total mass of 9 kg (including a representative payload mass of 1 kg), and a cruise speed between 65 and 100 km/h (40 and 62 mph). The avionics and ground control