A BMW manufacturing plant in South Carolina has demonstrated that fuel cells can be powered by fuel from a very accessible source: garbage.
In a demonstration project, a number of the facility’s fork lifts have been powered with hydrogen produced on-site from biomethane gas at a neighboring landfill.
The project researchers had two overcome two main obstacles before the fuel cell forklifts were operational. Firstly, they had to convert the biomethane gas into hydrogen and secondly they had to purify the hydrogen so it could be used in fuel cells.
The obstacles were overcome through multiple tests and evaluation, and the fuel cell forklifts are now vital to the day-to-day operations at the BMW plant.
And there are many advantages to the fuel cell forklifts compared to the standard forklifts that use batteries. Fuel cells can quickly be refueled in approximately three minutes. This boosts the productivity and reduce labor cost, as you do not have to deal with battery change-outs and hour long recharging as you do with a battery-powered forklifts.
The demonstration project is a collaboration between the Energy Department, BMW and project partners Ameresco, Gas Technology Institute and the South Carolina Research Authority.