Hydrogen fuelling stations using Linde technology have reached a major milestone – more than one million fills for the fuel cell driven material handling equipment at the BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Since 2010, the six million square foot BMW production facility has powered its entire hydrogen-fuel cell fleet with Linde technology.

BMW now operates more than 350 forklifts to service the plant’s production and logistics functions, making it one of the largest fuel cell forklift sites in the world.

“This is the most hydrogen fills at a single location anywhere in the world,” said Mike Beckman, Vice-President of Hydrogen Fuelling at Linde North America. “We are truly proud to reach this impressive milestone at the BMW plant. Equally important is that our technology can help advance sustainability and lower emissions while also helping to improve the bottom line. Hydrogen is one of the most promising alternative fuels because it is safe, economic and efficient.”

“While Linde hydrogen fuelling systems involve very sophisticated technology, the filling operation is designed to be relatively simple and is much like putting gasoline into your car,” Beckman added. “This simplicity is a critical aspect to the success of hydrogen as a fuel.”

Duncan Seaman, BMW Group’s Vice-President of Operations for the Americas Region, also reflected, “BMW’s relationship with Linde North America has greatly supported our company’s total commitment to sustainability. It has helped BMW to maintain its clear vision to reach our goal of using renewable energy as much as possible throughout the plant site.”

“The annual energy avoidance of 4.1 million kW/hours and dramatic reductions in fuelling time has positioned our hydrogen fuel cell material handling programme to be an industry benchmark.”

Fuel cell solutions

The lead acid batteries that formerly powered BMW’s lifts and trucks were replaced with GenDrive hydrogen fuel cell power solutions from New York-based Plug Power Inc., Linde’s associate in the BMW installation and the leading provider of hydrogen based fuel cells in the material handling market. BMW is able to boost productivity in two ways: reducing fuelling time and increasing equipment performance.

Andy Marsh, CEO for Plug Power Inc., reflected on these savings as he added, “At its core, Plug Power’s fuel cell solutions are designed to save customers, like BMW, time and money, bringing tremendous fleet improvements to automotive manufacturing customers that are not realised when lead-acid batteries are powering the electric lift truck fleet.”

“Not only do GenDrive fuel cells outperform lead-acid batteries, they also improve lift truck uptime.”