At one time hydrogen fuel cells appeared to have been surpassed by electrification as the future of the automotive industry: but now the technology is fighting back, albeit inside the manufacturing plants rather than on our roads.
The latest example comes at BMW Manufacturing, which has expanded its hydrogen fuel cell material handling equipment at its 4.0million square foot facility based in Spartanburg, South Carolina (pictured).
Back in 2010 the German carmaker installed a hydrogen storage and distribution area at the plant to fuel around 100 pieces of equipment. Since then, this number has expanded to around 230 units meant to service the plant’s production and logistics functions.
Now the use of hydrogen fuel cell equipment will expand further thanks to the introduction of new storage tubes and distribution piping; eight new hydrogen dispensers; and two new high capacity compressors. Collectively they will offer around 400kg of hydrogen every day with BMW estimating they will avoid 4.1kWh per year: that’s an increase from 1.8million kWh/year with the initial system.
In addition, BMW has released a project update on its landfill gas to hydrogen pilot project.
A team, led by the South Carolina Research Authority, is testing equipment meant to monitor hydrogen purity with BMW installing a clean-up system that is able to take a stream of landfill gas and remove the sulphur and trace contaminants. This can ultimately produce hydrogen using a steam methane reformer.
The final phase of the project will begin later this year with BMW to conduct side-by-side trials comparing material handling equipment that is fuelled by hydrogen derived from landfill gas, to hydrogen from commercial sources.
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