Linde provides hydrogen fueling systems for BMW materials handling expansion

Expansion more than doubles number of fuel cell-powered forklifts at the facility, for a total of 230.

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BMW Manufacturing’s plant in Spartanburg, S.C., has more than doubled its fleet of material handling equipment using hydrogen fueling systems provided by Linde North America. The 4 million square-foot production facility now uses hydrogen fuel cells to power its entire fleet of more than 230 units, making it one of the largest fuel cell forklift sites in the world.

Linde North America is a member of The Linde Group, one of the world’s largest hydrogen energy producers and a leader in developing alternative fuel technologies. BMW Manufacturing Co. is a subsidiary of BMW AG in Munich, Germany and is the global producer of the BMW X3 and X5 Sports Activity Vehicles and X6 Sports Activity Coupe.

In 2010, Linde supplied a hydrogen fueling system with six indoor dispenser stations to support more than 100 pieces of material handling equipment operating inside BMW’s plant. The recent expansion more than doubled their fleet by adding two new higher-throughput compressors, new storage tubes and distribution piping, and eight new hydrogen dispensers. To date, there have been over 200,000 successful hydrogen fuelings at the site.

The lifts and trucks deliver process parts to assembly machines throughout the plant. The lead acid batteries that formerly powered lifts and trucks were replaced with hydrogen fuel cells from Latham, N.Y.-based Plug Power, the leading provider of hydrogen based fuel cells in the material handling market. With more than 3,500 units deployed in revenue generating service, Plug Power has supplied the largest motive fuel cell fleet in the world.

Mike Beckman, vice president of Linde’s U.S Hydrogen Fueling team, said, “Linde is proud that BMW displayed the confidence in Linde to supply the hydrogen fueling systems for its expansion program. It proves that our technology can help advance sustainability and lower emissions while also helping to improve the bottom line. Hydrogen already is one of the most promising alternative fuels. Because of the way it is produced, the hydrogen we supply to BMW is truly green, with only a small carbon footprint incurred during shipping.”

The hydrogen is a by-product of a sodium chlorate plant which Linde purifies, compresses and liquefies using electricity produced from renewable hydropower. “BMW’s ongoing commitment to clean production is evident in our recent expansion of our hydrogen fuel cell program,” said Duncan Seaman, BMW Group, head of market operations, Americas. “We appreciate Linde’s partnership in supporting the expansion, making our entire operation more sustainable.”

BMW is able to boost productivity in two ways: Refueling these trucks with hydrogen using Linde’s equipment takes an operator less than three minutes, compared with 15-20 minutes to change out a battery. Also, fuel cells’ power output does not degrade over time, as do lead-acid batteries when they begin losing their charge toward the end of a shift. BMW also is able to reduce its total electricity demand, since no battery recharging is required, and eliminate the environmental disposal costs for lead acid batteries.

Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power, said, “We are pleased BMW has selected Linde as the hydrogen provider at their new manufacturing facility. We are also thrilled to work alongside Linde, a leader in the safe production, handling and supply of hydrogen and it makes sense they would be chosen to work with BMW to help them achieve their sustainability goals.”

Linde is a leading supplier of hydrogen fueling systems, having equipped over 80 stations in 15 countries. In the U.S., Linde has supplied stations for fork lift trucks at distribution centers for large retail, soft drink and food service companies.

BMW is using Linde’s Ionic Compressor fueling system, which is also being used extensively in Europe for cars and buses. “Linde is a technology company, not just a hydrogen supplier. It is nice to see that our fueling solution has allowed BMW to achieve significant benefits from choosing hydrogen as a reliable and clean fuel for their production facility,” Beckman said.


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