US Navy seeks hydrogen-powered forklifts
Won't set the world on fire. Maybe the warehouse
US Navy boffins are seeking to kit out American military stores depots with hydrogen-powered forklifts, or - as they prefer - "hydrogen-fueled material handling equipment".
Back in January, the Naval Surface Warfare Centre, crane division, issued a request for proposals seeking contractors to provide hydrogen-driven forklifts and fuelling stations to top them up, to "reduce existing oil consumption rates", and "initiate the transition towards a future hydrogen economy."
The idea is that existing electrically-powered forklifts would have their current battery packs replaced by hydrogen fuel cells.
"In total, [the US military supplies agency] operates over 3,000 forklifts, of which approximately half are electric-powered," say the naval sci-tech researchers.
"Proposers are expected to offer at a minimum a complete power unit that is equivalent in form, fit, and function and equal or superior in performance to the lead acid or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery system currently used in these forklifts."
In contrast to various other suggested uses for fuel-cells and hydrogen, this sounds relatively practical and achievable. Forklifts in a facility don't need to hold their hydrogen fuel for long periods, don't need long endurance, and can refuel as often as they like. The tricky problem of containing the hydrogen (or producing it on the spot) can be hived off into the filling-point infrastructure rather than happening in the vehicle.
That said, it seems likely that the hydrogen used in the new forklifts will still be ultimately produced by burning ordinary hydrocarbon fuels in some form. Hydrogen technology is merely a means of storing energy generated elsewhere - just like the electric forklifts which are being replaced. However, the NSW-Crane programme might advance the state of the hydrogen art without being too inconvenient.
Apparently, the Navy received four proposals. The winning bid was that from a Pennsylvania firm, Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. A $5,608,817 R&D contract was awarded on Wednesday, and work is expected to be complete by 2010. ®
Hydrogen might have a niche role
In this case. Operating a forklift on hydrogen would have two advantages.
1) downtime would be minimal, as refuelling can be acheived faster than traditional battery charging
2) In a poorly ventilated environment, I would rather be standing next to a hydrogen powered engine exhaust rather than one powered by hydrocarbon.
Outside these two niche requirements, the rest is SFW
Environmentalists lazy to think
"Dump this stupid idea (the hydrogen economy one) and let's just use the solar and wind to generate our electricity directly. THEN let's learn to conserve our energy, and stop living like there's no tomorrow."
It never stops to maaze me how LAZY or uneducated many envinonmentalists are - and I'm always amazed by their ability to ignore facts.
Hydrogen (as in hydrogen economy) is NOT a power source. It is a medium used to transfer energy from where it is generated to where it is needed.
Right now, solar and wind are *unusable* as main power sources. They're unreliable, and we have almost no means of storing electricity on a large scale. People are used to the fact that when it is midnight, they flick a switch and the electricity is there to do whatever they want. Solar and wind CAN'T do that at the moment.
Hydrogen can be generated from fossil fuels (stupid, but doable), or by hydrolysis. You COULD use solar or wind-generated electricity for this (it wouldn't be very cost-efficient, though), because this would give you the much needed ability to store energy, but for this to be worth it *you need that damn hydrogen economy*.
Using electricity, be it solar or nuclear-generated, to produce hydrogen is worth it only if the hydrogen-fueled cars/appliances/whatever become available. HYDROGEN ECONOMY IS ACTUALY A BIG CHANCE FOR SOLAR, WIND AND OTHER "GREEN" TECHNOLOGIES!
Different markets, different capabilities.
"That said, it seems likely that the hydrogen used in the new forklifts will still be ultimately produced by burning ordinary hydrocarbon fuels in some form."
I'm in agreement that the US Navy could have plenty of hydrogen generated by the nuclear reactors on either its vessels or other land based military operations. With the new reactors that operate at 830 degrees, it is practically free.
I also agree that for civilians, "the hydrogen economy" (at least has it has been marketed all these years) is basically a marketing lie. But the military is its own market, with its own needs. We consumers are a far greater influence in exhaust emissions.
Besides, if you think about it, expecting 'environmentalism' to be the highest priority of a governmental branch that exists only to KILL PEOPLE and BLOW THINGS UP is a little silly, isn't it?