Layout and speed increase of hydrogen fuel cell forklifts

Recently, a batch of X32 hydrogen fuel cell forklifts jointly produced by Tianjin New Hydrogen Power Technology Co., Ltd. and Hangcha Group Co., Ltd. have officially completed registration in the Guangdong Hong Kong Macao Greater Bay Area. This is the first batch of hydrogen fuel cell forklifts registered in the Guangdong Hong Kong Macao Greater Bay Area. In recent years, with the continuous release of favorable policies by the country and various regions, the application scenarios of hydrogen fuel cells have gradually expanded. As an innovative product in the field of industrial vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell forklifts have begun to receive attention from the warehousing and logistics industry due to their advantages of zero emissions, fast refueling, low temperature resistance, sufficient power, and constant output power. The industry generally believes that driven by policies and demand, the potential of the fuel cell forklift market will further expand, and the industrialization process is expected to accelerate.

Accelerated pace of development

The research report on the forklift industry released by Dongxing Securities shows that the research and development of fuel cells and related applications started earlier in foreign countries. Currently, enterprises in Canada, the United States, Japan, Germany and other countries are all developing and producing fuel cell forklifts, and their development and application speed far exceeds that of fuel cell vehicles. It is worth noting that since the beginning of this year, hydrogen fuel cell forklifts in China have received increasing market attention, and multiple domestic hydrogen energy enterprises are accelerating their layout.

In February this year, the first batch of hydrogen fuel cell forklifts jointly developed by Yixunchuang Energy, Meijin Energy, Guohong Hydrogen Energy, and Germany’s Yonghengli were successfully delivered to Qingpu District, Shanghai. In the same month, Tianjin New Power Technology Co., Ltd. also released two new products: H2X-TANK fuel cell heavy-duty forklifts and H2X-STAR hydrogen fuel cell 2-ton forward moving forklifts.

At the end of May, the 3.5T series fuel cell forklift jointly developed by Hydrogen Energy and Anhui will be successfully taken offline tomorrow. In June, Hangcha New Energy signed sales contracts with Yixunchuang Energy and New Hydrogen Power for a total of 30 hydrogen fuel cell forklifts. In July, National Hydrogen Technology and Hangcha Group signed a strategic cooperation agreement in Hangzhou. The two sides will jointly develop hydrogen fuel cell forklifts with market competitiveness, jointly promote the application of fuel cell forklifts in different scenarios, and provide users with feasible hydrogen infrastructure solutions. Wang Haifeng, Chairman of Zhejiang Fengyuan Hydrogen Technology Co., Ltd., said, “Forklifts are on-site vehicles, and their application scenarios are different from road vehicles. Compared to on-site vehicles, it is easier to solve the hydrogen supply problem. Currently, there is no national subsidy for forklifts, but some local governments have introduced subsidies for forklifts, such as forklift rental subsidies and hydrogen price subsidies. In this context, the economic efficiency of fuel cell forklifts can be fully reflected, and there is a good development prospect.”


Improved performance requirements

We have learned that previously, the logistics industry commonly used fuel powered forklifts or natural gas forklifts, which were later replaced by lead-acid battery forklifts. Around 2019, lithium battery forklifts began to be implemented. However, problems continue to arise during the use of lead-acid batteries and lithium batteries in vehicles.

Shen Cong, Operations Director of Dongguan Gangwan Innovation Supply Chain Co., Ltd., stated that lead-acid batteries are commonly used in warehousing operations in the logistics industry, but their efficiency is relatively low, especially in situations with large scenes, large workload, and long working hours, which require a lot of time to replace batteries, and the equipment for battery replacement is expensive. The quality of lithium-ion batteries varies greatly. In areas with high temperatures in the south, there are more battery failures, severe battery degradation, and a large amount of capacitance in the warehouse does not support charging load capacity.

Bai Yingchun, Vice President of the Industrial Vehicle Research Institute of Anhui Heli Co., Ltd. Technology Center, stated that if the scale of lithium battery or lead-acid battery forklifts reaches 50-100 units, it will bring problems such as long charging time, excessive capacitance demand, and even environmental pollution, seriously affecting the work efficiency of the warehousing and logistics park

The long charging and swapping time, high full lifecycle cost, and pollution issues have led the logistics industry to seek better technological paths for industrial forklifts. Bai Yingchun pointed out that hydrogen fuel cells have significant advantages in charging time and efficiency. By setting up a small skid mounted station in the factory area, according to the amount of hydrogen used, a single hydrogenation only takes 3-5 minutes, which is very convenient

At the same time, once fuel cell forklifts form economies of scale, their economic advantages will become more prominent. He Wen, CEO of Shanghai Yixunchuang New Energy Materials and Technology Co., Ltd., pointed out that compared to other batteries, some fuel cells can achieve greater cost savings in handling materials with very high strength, and the average annual cost can be reduced by more than 20%. Therefore, fuel cell forklifts have significant economic advantages even without considering financial subsidies in larger fleet sizes and more intensive work intensity.


Cost and technical challenges still exist

Although the market has great development potential and significant advantages under specific working conditions, hydrogen fuel cell forklifts still face safety, cost and other issues in China, as they are still in their early stages. Meanwhile, with the upgrading and generation selection of technology, the cost of lithium batteries may achieve a rapid decrease


In this context, the hydrogen fuel cell forklift industry needs more breakthroughs. Bai Yingchun stated that in some special industrial parks, higher requirements have been put forward for the explosion-proof performance of fuel cell forklifts. Based on the current situation, there are still certain risks in the operation of fuel cell forklifts in areas with higher explosion-proof risk levels, and more technological upgrades are needed. “The technical difficulties of fuel cell forklifts mainly lie in integration, stability, and reliability, and what is more difficult is to provide customers with a comprehensive solution.” Wang Haifeng emphasized that helping customers solve hydrogen sources, building hydrogen refueling devices in the factory, and providing forklift maintenance services are more important turnkey projects.

He Wen pointed out that currently, there are two solutions for fuel cell hydrogen supply in vehicles: one is to set up hydrogen supply equipment or systems in the field, and the other is to replace hydrogen storage bottles. It is necessary to develop a hydrogen production and supply solution according to different scenarios and needs. During this process, there is still room for further breakthroughs in the specific energy replenishment methods, hydrogen cylinder capacity, usage time, and hydrogen filling management regulations of fuel cell forklifts.

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