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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Joe Robinson of CSI Material Handling hit the road and headed to our nation’s capital to take in a session of Congress focused on the future. It might not have been a session one would be expecting, considering it had nothing to do with Russia, North Korea, or the current administration. No – Joe was there for a special session of Congress discussing hydrogen fuel cells and their future in our heavy equipment and automotive industries.
Joe witnessed five speakers: one from the U.S. Department of Energy, one from Toyota Material Handling North America’s (TMNA) Energy Research and Development department, and three from energy companies operating in the hydrogen fuel cell space (Air Liquide, Plug Power, and Bloom Energy). From the Department of Energy Joe learned that hydrogen fuel cell technology got off the ground in the 1970s. In California, there are currently 27 filling stations, and there are expansion plans. Also discussed was the high level of commitment (through foreign direct investment and domestic investment) Japan and China have.
Why Hydrogen? Hydrogen fuel is, on average, 2.5X more efficient than gasoline and propane fuel methods. For passenger vehicles, this means more mileage between fill-ups. For Toyota material handling equipment such as forklifts, this means multiple shifts on a single fueling with no breaks for charging. When it comes time to fill up, it takes minutes, not hours. For lift trucks, better efficiency also means there is constant and consistent power during shifts. Also, the lifetime of fuel cells is 10 years on average, compared to 3 years on average for lead acid batteries.