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Toyota’s fuel-cell forklifts give way to truck project

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The quest for greener sources of automobile fuel usually boils down to finding fuel with lower carbon emissions. Toyota is trying to develop an approach using fuel cells powered through its Hydrogen Supply Project. Attorney Karen V. Jimeno recently made a visit to the Yokohama Wind Power Plant a.k.a. The Hama Wing, which she described as “a beautiful, intricate system consisting of wind-power, batteries, and vehicle technologies.”

The Hama Wing is capable of producing “a rated output of 1,980 kW” and its energy is stored in Toyota’s Storage Battery System, a facility that “operates on 180 second-hand fuel cell packs taken from 180 Toyota Prius vehicles.” Prius remains a top-selling hybrid vehicle for Toyota.

The idea of recycling Prius cell packs as well as those from Toyota’s Mirai are part of the company’s Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply Chain Demonstration Project - Hydrogen Supply Project for short.

The Hydrogen Supply Project was initially developed to produce low carbon hydrogen from the Hama Wing to supply energy to fuel cells that powered forklifts. The project, also according to Jimeno, intended to “integrate power generation, fuel production and vehicle operation with zero carbon footprint.” No gas. No fossil fuel. Just the low carbon variant of hydrogen for Toyota’s own roster of forklifts at first and, eventually, trucks.

Because wind is variable, the project uses a “water electrolysis system.” Through this system, water is broken down into oxygen and hydrogen resulting in 100% pure hydrogen gas stored for later use. The storage facility’s main tank has as much as 800 Nm3 energy in stock for 12 fuel-cell forklifts to last for 2 days.

That’s when Toyota realized that it had enough hydrogen to power trucks, too. Adjustments were made to tailor-fit the hydrogen supply needed to power what got labeled as “Japan’s first compact hydrogen fueling truck.” To achieve the 270 Nm3 capacity needed for the truck, Jimeno explained that “the stored hydrogen is pressurized using a compressor for storage.”

The fuel cells are practically the same cells found in the Toyota Mirai. Having driven the Mirai herself, Jimeno personally shared how impressed she was at how the vehicle ran as if powered by gas. Mirai’s stellar reputation served as a springboard for Toyota to use in promoting other automobile products that ran on hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

There is so much promise on these hydrogen-based sources of energy based on the results generated from forklift usage. If 270 Nm3 is enough to power 6 forklifts, then a single forklift is equipped with about 45 Nm3 each. This is the estimated capacity that the same forklift can use to carry up to 2.5 tons and keep the vehicle powered for up to 15 hours. So multiply the tonnage capacity by the number of forklifts that the truck can match and the hydrogen fueling truck can possibly carry up to 15 tons.

The Hydrogen Supply Project has 12 fuel-cell forklifts under it with 4 being used in different facilities. Nichirei Logistics Group (Higashi-Ogishima Distribution Center) and Nakamura Logistics Inc. (Kawasaki FAZ Distribution Center), both in Kawasaki; and Kirin Yokohama Brewery and the Yokohama Central Wholesale Market.

Development of fuel cell trucks in the facilities is still ongoing.

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