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Ambitious Hydrogen Forklift Supply Chain Experiment Launched in Japan

July 12, 2017

Japan's Ministry of the Environment just announced that it will soon begin a major test of a low-carbon hydrogen supply chain, which will use hydrogen produced from renewable energy in facilities along Tokyo Bay (in Yokohama and Kawasaki) to power forklifts. A unique feature is also that wind power is being used to generate the hydrogen fuel.

The Fuel-Cell Forklift

A Japanese partnership, consisting of the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, the municipal governments of the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki, Iwatani Corporation, Toshiba Corporation, Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Industries Corporation, Toyota Turbine and Systems, Inc., and Japan Environment Systems Co., Ltd. announced today that all facilities to be used in the FY2015 Regional Cooperation and Low-carbon Hydrogen Technology Demonstration Project commissioned by the Ministry have been completed, and full-scale operations of the pilot project are already underway.

A system has been created for using electricity generated at the Yokohama City Wind Power Plant (Hama Wing) to electrolyze water to create low-carbon hydrogen, which is then compressed and stored. The hydrogen produced at the site will be transported in a hydrogen fueling truck to a fruit and vegetable market, a factory, and warehouses. The hydrogen will be used in fuel cells to power forklifts at these locations.

The creation of this hydrogen supply chain in cooperation with local partners is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80 percent when compared with a supply chain using forklifts powered by gasoline or grid electricity. The goal of the project is to establish a hydrogen supply chain, analyze costs, and estimate potential CO2 reductions that can be achieved with a full-scale supply chain in the future.

1. Project OverviewThe project includes: 

- a system to produce hydrogen by electrolyzing water using wind power

- a system to optimize storage and transportation of hydrogen

- use of fuel cell forklifts

- a hydrogen supply chain feasibility study

2. Specific items to be verified by the project

The business case for hydrogen supply chains and future expansion to other regions will be verified, through cost analysis and measurement of the project's contribution to global warming countermeasures.

Hydrogen cost- The demonstration project will use evaluations of current conditions (demonstration project costs) to examine future courses of action required to reduce hydrogen costs, including verification of savings from economies of scale and identification of the steps needed to implement deregulation.- The project will also examine the development of a promotional and deployment model through technological innovation, as well as the development of full-scale supply chains, based on projections of needs in 2030.

CO2 emissions reductions- The project aims to construct a low-carbon hydrogen supply chain that can reduce overall CO2 emissions by at least 80% when compared with conventional approaches.- The project will examine measures for further reducing CO2 emissions.

3. Overview of future full-scale operations (from July 2017)- Commencement of low-carbon hydrogen production using power from Hama Wing- Verification of hydrogen supply using 12 fuel cell forklifts and two hydrogen fueling trucks- Cloud-based management and operation, from hydrogen production to usage

4. Results of full-scale operation pilot trial (November 2016 to July 2017)

Trial objectives- To acquire proficiency in hydrogen supplying and filling work- To gain further knowledge of hydrogen and fuel cells- To complete the pilot deployment of fuel cell forklifts

Overview- One forklift was deployed to the Yokohama City Central Wholesale Market and one to Nakamura Logistics for test runs.- A hydrogen fueling truck from the Iwatani Industrial Gases Corp. Chiba plant was used to deliver hydrogen.

Evaluation of trial- Compared to forklifts powered by electricity, fuel cell forklifts had shorter recharging times, were used flexibly without issues, and were generally well reviewed.- There were requests for more frequent hydrogen deliveries in order to improve fuel cell forklift uptime.