A US firm debuts the world's first pilot of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered container handler

Powered by two 45kw hydrogen fuel cells, the container handler is part of an initiative that focuses on reducing greenhouse gases.
Deena Theresa
The Hyster top-pick container handler, the first ever powered by a hydrogen fuel cell to be piloted in a real-world program.
The Hyster top-pick container handler, the first ever powered by a hydrogen fuel cell to be piloted in a real-world program.

Hyster Company 

Hyster Company, a lift truck designer and manufacturer, has unveiled what could possibly be the world's first hydrogen fuel cell-powered (HFC) container handler.

Powered by two 45kw hydrogen fuel cells from Nuvera, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hyster's parent company Hyster-Yale Group, the pilot program of the industry-standard H1050-1150XD-CH container handler has begun at Fenix Marine Services in the Port of Los Angeles.

The project is part of the California Climate Investments, an initiative that focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving the environment, among many others.

"We are excited to participate in this pilot and implement another sustainable solution designed to help meet Clean Air Action Plan 2030 objectives. Exploring the use of hydrogen as a zero-emission fuel source is important for the entire transportation industry and is a perfect complement to the other alternative energy research and development projects our parent company, CMA CGM Group, is spearheading to protect the planet and reach net-zero carbon by 2050," FMS CEO Steve Trombley said in a press release.

Built on an industry standard top-pick container handler design with two hydrogen cells

The newly-designed HFC-powered top pick is designed to minimize breaks, usually taken to refuel or recharge the batteries. The refueling process with hydrogen fuel takes approximately 15 minutes, with the runtime extending up to eight to 10 hours. The working system is designed to emit zero polluting emissions; it just releases water and heat.

The lithium-ion battery-operated system works together with the hydrogen fuel cell, with the latter charging the onboard battery or powering the equipment.

The top pick also features a "patented Hyster® energy recovery system for electric container handlers that recovers and stores energy from lowering loads and braking".

'Hydrogen is the right choice'

To achieve the electrification of a higher-capacity system for port terminals, the company has utilized its experience in electric truck design to develop smaller, lighter-capacity industrial trucks. Hyster Company has recently brought out lithium-ion powered forklifts and a pilot of a fuel-cell powered ReachStacker at the Port of Valencia, a fuel-cell-powered empty container handler at a terminal in Hamburg, Germany. The firm also announced a joint partnership to develop electric and hydrogen-powered terminal tractors.

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"Our mission is to provide the innovative technologies our customers need to help meet their goals for emissions reduction and performance. For some operations, lithium-ion power might be the answer, but for others, hydrogen is the right choice," said Jan Willem van den Brand, director, of global market development, big trucks, Hyster.

"The answer depends on so many factors like duty cycle, utility grid capacity, and fuel availability. Our customers deserve choices that allow them to build the right solution based on their needs – not shoehorning a single technology into their operation," he added.

As the world makes big strides towards cleaner energy sources, this move by Hyster Company enables the mission to be furthered to large, often heavily-polluting industries.

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