The car is a symbol of autonomy, post-modernism and even one that speaks of the successes of mass production. We have modeled our world around transportation of goods and people. It has dictated our city plans, provided us with choice, and keeps us flexible. This notion is something that hasn’t wholly changed for a long time, except the fuel that is used to power them, which gradually, under the right conditions, is.
In this era of 21st century super connectivity we seek to diversify with our technology, pioneering tech that streamline our processes, iron out our inefficiencies and that comes to our aid. From time-saving productivity apps to Uber this movement has been revolutionary. What too, in this era, has the power to change our machinery and transportation forever? The way we power our vehicles from materials handling machines to cars has the power to be a complete power revolution.
In our previous blog posts we have detailed some of the things happening with warehouse automation, the electric chain in logistics that could render a whole human stage in the supply chain obsolete. But how about taking this idea further still. What about electrically powered forklifts? How about wholly automated warehouses with electric pallets and automated trucks, eerie right?
These advancements in electric power are real, companies have been toying with the idea in the 21st century of making this a viable alternative to the petroleum powered vehicle and automobile. But since capitalism seems to command instrumental influence in the way economies of the world operate; the real introduction of renewable energy vehicles on mass has been nothing but a notion uttered amongst cults as progressive power sources demand capital not logical solutions to be successful.
But why is this the case? Since the beginning of the 19th century inventors have been successfully producing electrically powered vehicles, from wagons to GM’s Evo 1. However in 2015 the ‘eco friendly’ hybrid car has gone ‘mainstream’ as one 2013 article suggested. Now, you are more likely to be knocked over by the silent, futuristic and metallic like aura of a Toyota Prius quietly driving down the street in front of you as you systemically refresh your emails whilst drinking a coffee and jamming to Ray Charles; than to see it as a cult interest.
A Progressive Powerful Market
Now you can walk around Fitzrovia, London and spot Tesla cars parked up on Gt Portland St sparkling as their suit clad owners retrieve them. This is not a cheap vehicle, but probably one of the most advanced electric cars yet. Now with the introduction of the Tesla Power Wall that can power everything from your car to your house, the possibilities and innovation that has been achieved facilitates this reality, but does our economics?
Proton Powered ForkLift Trucks
Big companies require big capital to innovate and have an impact. Proton Power Systems is one of them. Based in Munich, Germany the company have worked hard to produce innovative and powerful fuel cells as an alternative to the normal power systems. And indeed:
“Proton Motor had historically secured external funding from Volvo Technology Transfer AB and other German institutional and private investors. These funds facilitated the undertaking of several pilot projects and, to date, over 100 fuel cell modules have been built. During early 2006, Proton Motor’s ongoing commercial operations required further capital and Proton Power Systems was formed in February 2006 as a vehicle to facilitate interim funding. Proton Power Systems subsequently acquired Proton Motor in a share for share exchange in April and May 2006.” Proton Power Systems
My point here is that pilot schemes such as this one came to fruition through larger corporate company initiatives. Which is understandable in the climate I speak of today, yet this technology, and the power we have to facilitate its mainstream inclusion, exists. The applications for these batteries is vast from tall buildings to cars, but what about the materials handling industry? As obviously the efficiency savings here could be huge.
Huge Efficiency Savings
Proton Power have addressed that problem with the electric hybrid system forklift. They unveiled the world’s first triple-hybrid forklift system in Puchheim, near Munich, Germany this year. Designed as a plug-and-drive technology by Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH (Proton Motor), a wholly owned subsidiary of Proton Power, the triple-hybrid system offers significant cost and energy savings and works with all battery types and brands of forklift trucks.
Buses and forklift trucks are a key market segment for the company and being able to offer the unique tech puts the company at an important point for the move into the commercialisation of the products. The triple-hybrid system, the PM Package MH30, combines a fuel cell, a battery and supercapacitors, there website says:
“to form an energy-efficient power system, replacing the standard battery package for the Class 1 forklift with an 80 V, 700Ah battery. As all components are used in their optimal operation range, the system offers over 50% energy savings compared with diesel engine forklifts and fuel-cell-only systems. In addition, an intelligent energy management system controls the power distribution between the fuel cell, supercapacitors, and battery. The energy recovered during braking is stored in the supercapacitors and batteries, which provide peak power during operations such as acceleration and lifting heavy loads. The 10 kW proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell delivers sufficient energy to allow the forklift to work for an eight-hour shift and also features a short recharge time where users can refuel hydrogen for a full working shift in just one minute.” Proton Motor
Clearly the technology, and development of the company is at an exciting stage to be introduced across the board the company says expensive charging stations and inefficient batteries is no longer a concern. However there are a number of factors affecting the growth in the power systems market, including:
- ongoing depletion of fossil fuel reserves. Hydrogen has the potential to replace these finite resources.
- current and future air quality regulation surrounding environmentally harmful emissions, in particular, CO2 reduction targets.
- growing industry and consumer demand for alternative sources of energy.
- energy security concerns and needs.
- the potential long term competitiveness of the transportation industry.
There is a huge potential to bring all of these alternative power cells to market, only our economics and systems block that rise in fossil fuel consumption and shunning of this technology.