Ohio funds another Crown fuel cell project

News Story
- 7 May 2009 ( #409 ) - New Bremen, OH, United States
3 min read
Another forklift-oriented fuel cell project is getting started.

Crown Equipment Corp will receive USD1 million in State of Ohio funds over two years to develop an integrated fuel cell forklift.

Eric Jensen, manager of new technology research and development with New Bremen, Ohio-based Crown, says: "Crown and its collaborators on the grant are expected to contribute at least USD1.15 million to the project, in addition to the grant."

The project will draw on support from the TJ Smull College of Engineering at Ohio Northern University, in Ada, Ohio. The project will identify and partner with fuel cell and balance-of-plant suppliers; construct a bench-top model; and define specifications for creating a prototype forklift. The non-profit Edison Materials Technology Centre, in Dayton, Ohio, will assist with supply chain development, and state-of-matter gas sensor developer NexTech Materials Ltd, of Lewis Centre, Ohio, will work to incorporate its hydrogen sensor technology into the integrated forklift design.

A state spokesman says Ohio requested proposals for fuel cell projects on July 28, 2008, and received Crown's initial application on September 11 and final input on March 25. The two-year performance period starts in January 2010.

State officials disclosed the grant on April 28, saying the award is contingent on approval of a controlling board, probably in a few weeks.

Funding will come through the state's fuel cell program, an initiative of the technology-oriented Ohio Third Frontier Commission and the technology and innovation division of the Ohio Department of Development. The state created the fuel cell program in 2002.

Crown has earlier experience with fuel cell technology.

In July 2008, non-profit technology developer Concurrent Technologies Corp, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, began a two-year demonstration program to retrofit 20 Crown FC 4500 forklifts with hydrogen-powered HyPX fuel cell power packs from Hydrogenics Corp, of Mississauga, Canada. The US Defence Logistics Agency oversees the fuel cell forklift pilot project at Warner Robins defence depot on Robins Air Force Base, in Georgia (Forkliftaction.com News #371).

In March 2008, the Ohio Department of Development approved a USD997,000 grant to Crown for a three-year project to qualify its battery-powered forklifts for fuel cells. The intention is for Crown to target and qualify as many of its forklift models eligible for fuel cell implementation as possible. The project started in June 2008 and will take about 24 months, Jensen says.

"This (2008) grant allowed Crown to respond to our customers' desire to trial fuel cells in [several] different locations and truck models," he says.

In 2006, Crown supplied pallet trucks for fuel cell testing at the Grove City, Ohio distribution centre of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. In that case, the state fuel cell initiative provided a USD1 million grant to a consortium led by Cellex Power Products Corp. Plug Power Inc acquired Cellex in March 2007. "Crown has had working relationships with the major fuel cell providers before the 2006 Grove City trial," Jensen says.

"The 2009 grant will allow Crown to expand on the valuable work we began last year and, ultimately, facilitate the creation and growth of materials handling equipment used in warehouses and distribution centres to be powered by fuel cells."

State officials say integrating fuel cells into forklifts, rather than using traditional power packs, can improve operating efficiency and allow design flexibility.
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