AIKEN, S.C. – EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) and Hawaii Hydrogen Carriers (HHC) are collaborating on a new generation of hydrogen powered forklifts thanks to DOE’s Small Business Vouchers (SBV) Pilot.
SRNL has been awarded $300,000 to work with HHC to optimize the performance of a metal hydride-based, onboard hydrogen storage system for proton exchange membrane fuel cell powered forklift trucks.
Forklifts with gaseous hydrogen storage units require high pressure — up to 5,000 pounds per square inch (psi) — but the new solid-state system operates at pressures of only 600 to 800 psi while storing more than twice the amount of hydrogen in less space. As a low-pressure alternative, the system will be safer, run longer before refueling, and require less maintenance. The metal hydride-based storage system can be refueled directly from a solar powered, water electrolyzer, making the hydrogen completely renewable and more broadly adoptable by companies.
A forklift powered by Hawaii Hydrogen Carriers ’s metal hydride-based hydrogen storage system for fuel cell applications.
SRNL Integrated Energy Systems Section Manager and Project Lead Scott McWhorter said the expertise SRNL can offer small businesses is critical to these partnerships.
“SRNL’s R&D capabilities, including full-system engineering, can be accessed by small businesses through the voucher program,” McWhorter said. “We provide resources they wouldn’t normally have, allowing them to innovate faster and be more competitive nationally and internationally.”
SRNL will provide analyses and testing of HHC’s prototype, engineering expertise for troubleshooting, and modeling capabilities to examine the different scenarios and conditions under which the system will operate. The goal is to create a forklift cost-competitive with current systems on the market while exceeding the performance and ability to operate and maintain these compressed gas systems.
Craig Jensen, president of HHC, said he is amazed at the advantages the partnership with national laboratories has done for this project so far.
“The long history of work on metal hydride systems at SRNL has already started paying dividends for us,” said Jensen. “For small businesses, there can be so many hurdles, but partnerships like this with SRNL helps remove those barriers. SRNL’s expertise is making this project a success.”
HHC created the prototype forklift with the metal hydride base storage units with the support of Sandia National Laboratories and Hydrogenics, which provides new technologies and applications for industrial and commercial hydrogen systems. The team hopes to demonstrate the improved system in upcoming months, allowing HHC to accelerate the commercialization of these systems.
SRNL is one of eight DOE national laboratories participating in the DOE SBV, an initiative to provide American small businesses the expertise and technical resources to combat challenges such as affordability or limited resources.