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Plug Power to develop H2 fuel cell range extenders for FedEx Express electric delivery trucks

9 January 2014

Plug Power Inc., the leading provider of hydrogen fuel cell technology to the materials handling market, will develop hydrogen fuel cell range extenders for 20 FedEx Express electric delivery trucks, allowing FedEx Express to nearly double the amount of territory the vehicles can cover with one charge. (Earlier post.)

This $3-million project is funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and includes project partners FedEx Express, Plug Power and Smith Electric Vehicles. The resulting hybrid vehicles will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and a 10 kW Plug Power hydrogen fuel cell system. The fuel cell solution is based on Plug Power’s GenDrive Series 1000 product architecture.

The GenDrive product series normally targets 3-wheel and 4-wheel sit-down counterbalanced materials-handling trucks. (Sit-down counterbalanced trucks are most commonly used in high-volume manufacturing and high-throughput warehousing and distribution operations. Counterbalanced trucks serve general purpose and carry the heaviest loads.) GenDrive has accumulated more than five million operating hours at customer sites across North America.

Currently, electric delivery trucks are limited to traveling about 80 miles per charge. By doubling the vehicle range, Plug Power’s range extender makes battery-based electric vehicles feasible for nearly all delivery routes. It is an enabling technology that makes electric-powered delivery vehicles a viable solution for a wide range of applications, including parcel delivery trucks, taxis, post office trucks and port vehicles, the company suggested.

Through the trials with FedEx Express, Plug Power expects to display how its range extender solution increases delivery fleet efficiency to more than 50% coupled with an approximately 35 to 40% decrease in fuel expenses, when compared to diesel trucks.

Customer interest in this technology provides Plug Power with a market expansion opportunity that leverages its existing technology-set and hydrogen fuel cell experience with development funds provided by the DOE, the company noted.

Early customer experiences with electric delivery vehicles have been overwhelmingly positive. But only 1% of these vehicles are electric today; we think that this range extender provides the added distance and quick refueling capabilities needed to really grow this market. Plug Power’s expertise in the materials handling market—where we have more than 90% market share—is an ideal base on which to build this technology.

—Andy Marsh, Plug Power CEO

In his December 2013 business update, Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh noted that, in addition to the range extender opportunity, the company was also eyeing Transportation Refrigeration Units (TRUs) as well as airport ground support equipment (GSE) as potential areas for expansion. Plug Power is working with Sysco Long Island on the TRUs, and with FedEx Express on GSEs. The latter project also has support from the DOE, with $2.5 million in funding.

As of October 2013, Plug Power has delivered more than 4,000 fuel cell units to 44 total site deployments with 24 different customers. Daily hydrogen dispensing is more than 4,600 kg.

Marsh also noted that the company has been averaging approximately 10% year-over year cost reductions ($/unit) in its products from 2010 to 2014.

January 9, 2014 in Electric (Battery), Fleets, Fuel Cells | Permalink | Comments (102) | TrackBack (0)


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And that is what every BEV used in a cold climate could do with.

The capabilities would be enormously increased, using a zero pollution at point of use solution instead of the engineering kludge which is a PHEV.

What is the effective range of a Leaf in cold weather?
What is the effective range of a 5 year old Leaf in cold weather if you don't want to hammer the battery with continual 100% charges?

This is simply a better solution.

Not to mention that you would stay toastie warm using the waste heat from the fuel cell, when due to the drastically reduced range of a BEV if you want to cover your normal journey you may end up freezing!

BEVs in the cold:

'While vehicles with larger batteries, or with active liquid thermal management systems, such as the Ford Focus, suffered less loss of range during this extreme winter, drivers of the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, had bigger complaints about “extreme” loss of range, especially when the cabin heater was in full use. In some cases, this meant not using an EV, needing to charge at work (where that had not previously been necessary), or bundling up with warm clothes due to the need to cycle the heater on and off to retain as much range as possible.,

One thing which I have heard rumours of, but don't have definitive information on, is that charging the car actually takes more (?) power, and that coupled with the lower range means that the efficiency is way down.

Anyone got better data on that?

'the German AutoBild hat testet E-Cars in extreme Conditions. Winter, cold battery and hills ( Pirelli Test Strret in the Alpes)

Tesla 85kw Version Range: 129 Miles
Leaf: 43 Miles
BMW i3: 38 Miles
iMiew: 38 Miles
ZOE: 37 Miles

Conclusion: E-Cars can not be used in Winter.

I think their next test is driving at recommended Autobahn Speed of 130km/h ( 81,25 Miles /hr) in Winter. You guess the recommendation.'

(Zoe Driver, comment)

Nothing new. That's the nature of batteries.

How is a PHEV any more if a kludge than a fuel cell?

What is the source of the hydrogen - fracked and then cracked natural gas, a non-renewable fossil fuel.

The fuel cell just costs a lot more than an ICE engine. The H2 fuel costs a lot more than natural gas because you have to spend energy reforming and compressing it, not to mention extra equipment.

Davemart you reference the waste heat that could hear the cabin as a good thing - but any time it's not cold, that's just extra wasted energy, and a lot of it.

More energy dense solid state batteries will be available long before a price competitive H2 fuel cell and matching H2 fueling infrastructure.

electric car guy:

You obviously have a crystal ball, as you can predict exactly what 'will' happen in battery tech.

Of course ICE PHEVs are the kludge not fuel cells, as the later is all electric and zero pollution at point of use, whereas the former luggs around a load of ICE gear, a high temperature exhaust and catalyst for a start.

As for the usual innumeracy about where the supply for hydrogen comes from, less than 1% of the US grid is from solar, and unless you are a nightworker you probably aren't charging from solar anyway.

The grid burns copious amounts of fossil fuels, coal as well as gas, so if you get in touch with reality and spent less time fantasising your judgement might be worth something.

I suspect its only a matter of time before Oil company execs end their speeches and talks with the expression "Hydrogen is coming" in the style of game of thrones

Well doesn't that make BEV's even more unreliable and unrealistic? It was 14 below here and I still have to get to work. Started my 20 year old ICE up and drove in, round trip was 78 miles. Average speed about 60mph.
And I am not alone looking around on the expressway.

I dont see BEV as affordable or practical until some kind of HUGE breakthrough is made. I would love a affordable dependable 100 to 150 mile range daily commuter but after over a decade of following this it seems not where to be found.

I am still trying to figure out if Toyota figured out how to reduce the cost and pressure of hydrogen storage.

Oh and to the "where do we get the hydrogen from crowd".

There are so many ways from algae, volcanic heat electrolysis to artificial photosynthesis that seem to show a lot of promise.

And to be honest I DON'T care what the tech is as long in the end a consumer gets a ride that meets American transportation needs can be quickly refueled and doesn't cost a fortune to own and operate and as a huge bonus doesn't pollute.

Reform methanol to run HT PEMS, Mercedes was reforming methanol for fuel cells 20 years ago in the NECAR programs. Methanol is MUCH easier to handle than 10,000 psi hydrogen.

You get methanol from farm/forest waste and non food bio fuel crops. $2 per gallon for 40 MPG, with NO imported oil and no NOX nor carcinogenic/mutagenic products in the air from internal combustion.


Perhaps you would explain why Toyota should spend perhaps a billion dollars developing fuel cells to oblige the oil companies if they think they are a naff idea and that batteries would be better?
If batteries worked as well they could make just as much money building BEVs.

Even a conspiracy theory needs some hint of rationality, like a motive for the players to conspire.

"Toyota said there will be 20 hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. by 2015 and 40 by 2016 — mostly in Southern California, where the FCV will initially debut and where the state is promoting expansion of the stations."
- USA Today, reporting Jan 7 from Toyota's 2014 CES fuel cell vehicle rollout.

40 stations to fill up in the entire US. Two or three years from now. Talk about range anxiety.

For a car that will cost between $50k - $100k. "Toyota has declined to say how much a fuel cell vehicle could cost in 2020. But working from data it has released, that figure could be about 45,000 euro."
- AutoNews

Toyota is confident that fuel cell vehicles will be price competitive against other zero-emission cars before 2030, Soichiro Okudaira, chief officer, R&D Group, told Automotive News Europe in an interview with dateline Dec 11, 2013.

This is from Toyota's crystal ball, not mine. So, how realistic is H2 as a passenger transportation fuel?

As of May 2013, there were 20,138 publicly accessible car charging stations in the US according to Recargo, publisher of the PlugShare charge station finder app.

With an extended range of 500+ Km, a few hundred FCEVs can operate in California, with an initial basic 40 well located H2 stations. About 20X more could do the same for USA.

Of course, as FCEVs progressively multiply, so will H2 stations.

Building 1000+ new H2 stations a year is a manageable challenge for USA's industries and economy. Europe, China and others could do as much.

Always amusing to read your posts, Harvey. ;-)

> Building 1000+ new H2 stations a year is a manageable challenge

What kind of research have you done on the cost of H2 stations? It's about a million dollars a pop, my friend. That's a cool Billion dollars.

Who is the "of course" that's going to foot the bill for these stations as FCEV's "progressively multiply". How's that going to work for the first unlucky several thousand drivers?

At least with BEVs, you can leverage existing infrastructure with a relatively low cost safety adapter / extension cord - an EVSE.

Where's the equivalent for hydrogen?

Electric car whatever:
Perhaps you imagine that petrol pumps and stations last forever.
They don't, and need replacing.

That used to be cheap, but regulations now make them take reasonable care to avoid leaks and pollution, so they are ball park the same as hydrogen stations.

Fuel cell cars get around 3 times the mileage per gallon equivalent as petrol cars.

That means less pumps, not more, so the net cost is less than simply maintaining the present system.

I'd be interested to see your figures for wiring up every roadside so that the ~50% of cars that are not parked in garages can be charged.
Clue:Its not cheap.

With universal battery electric cars, Labour day should be interesting, as millions try to charge up simultaneously on route for longer drives.

I have never knocked battery electric cars on the grounds of the expense of the infrastructure, but there are much more solid grounds to do so than fuel cell cars.

You sound exactly like the ICE loyalists did about battery electric cars, proclaiming that no change is ever possible, and inventing poorly researched and innumerate rationales against progress.

I support both fuel cells and batteries, and both will have their place, the proportions to be determined on the ground, and not by nuts on blogs with their handy calculations on the backs of envelopes.

But you would know this if you were not arguing from prejudice, and took the trouble to read some of the reams of studies from the likes of the DOE written by properly qualified people who don't have a bee in their bonnets.


I have no clue what you are talking about in your response to me. Perhaps you need to re-program your auto-response mechanism.

I was only saying that as the house of stark adopted the motto "Winter is coming" to remind themselves that times may not always be so good; it might be wise for the oil industry to create a similar motto; such as "hydrogen is coming". How your program interpreted that as some sort of conspiracy theory is beyond me.

Personally I'm not that interested in theoretical arguments over which technology is better or will succeed. It reminds me too much of 8 year old debates over whether superman could beat up spiderman. I do believe that it will be interesting to watch how the competing technologies progress and in the end I expect ICEV will be a loser but I don't think there are any certainties.

In that case I have no idea what was the point of your first post.

@davemart, I don't mind the barbs, they're kind of funny and serve to underscore the fact that you haven't offered a single argument on the merits.

But when you say "proclaiming that no change is ever possible" you're just making stuff up and attributing it to me.

I haven't ever said that no change is ever possible, only pointed out that by Toyota's own reckoning, H2 won't be cost competitive as a transportation fuel until 2030. Although that's a very long time, it's a lot closer than never.

electric car would be insider:
Neat evasion of any substantive response.

How is hydrogen infrastructure going to cost the fortune you say when it will replace petrol infrastructure which would need replacing anyway?

You alleged worse costs for hydrogen infrastructure than electric, so presumably you are either working from cost estimates, or talking through your hat.

So what is your estimate for wiring up all the cars at the roadside in the US?

Sorry to say it Davemart but the electric car guy has a point. You have this ugly tendency of auto responding based on twisting certain keywords in other respondants like "grid", "efficiency" and such, then you bring up sideshows and miss-the-point arguments to suit the line of argument you've just made up yourself.

Don't you understand this isn't an effective persuasion technique? It just makes you look arrogant and devoid of fair comparison and reasoning.

Re infra cost. Petrol infra is cheap because of low pressure liquid that is easily transportable. High pressure low energy density gas is much tougher so it translates into higher cost in capital and energy for transport.

Re Toyota spending a billion. This doesn't tell us much. GM spent a billion or so in the EV1 in the 1990s, it was an economic failure even though somewhat reasonable performance was achieved. The time just wasn't ripe yet, and GM lost a lot of money. These things happen, in a commercial environment risks must be taken, there are no guarantees, but no guts no glory, no investment no return.

Re efficiency, natural gas - battery hybrids with ICEs use slightly less natural gas per mile than hydrogen FCV-battery hybrids. Currently it makes no sense, because almost all hydrogen comes from natural gas, and in the future it makes no sense either, as electricity for electrolysis will be in competition with battery electrics.

Batteries suck badly in terms of long trips, fuel cells are good for long trips but suck in all other performance compartments where batteries do better.

This laptop is powered by batteries. Not fuel cells. My cellphone is powered by batteries. Not fuel cells. Electric bicycles are powered by batteries. Not fuel cells. Space sattelites are powered by batteries and solar panels, not fuel cells. The Mars Rovers are powered by nuclear and battery/solar panels, not fuel cells. For both high end (even price isn't an issue there) and low end applications, batteries are used, not fuel cells.

Fuel cells have been around for about 180 years.

Davemart: "Fuel cell cars get around 3 times the mileage per gallon equivalent as petrol cars."

This is not true. Hybrid battery-ICE cars get 47 MPG (typical real fleet average of prius). A 68 MPG hydrogen-battery hybrid vehicle with 12% compressive (hydrogen) loss and 25% loss in the steam reforming gets 45 MPG of natural gas. The same mileage as the natural gas put in a converted hybrid ICE car.

Davemart: "That means less pumps, not more, so the net cost is less than simply maintaining the present system."

This is also not true, as it was based on the false 3x mileage argument, plus hydrogen requires a lot of pump power in compressors compared to gasoline stations (more than two orders of magnitude in fact). So you literally need a lot more pump power with hydrogen than with gasoline.

Not saying gasoline is great and we should keep it, but that doesn't justify apples to oranges or even plain out false comparisons.

Davemart: "But you would know this if you were not arguing from prejudice, and took the trouble to read some of the reams of studies from the likes of the DOE written by properly qualified people who don't have a bee in their bonnets."

I'm sorry davemart but you're very prejudiced yourself and you read a lot more into the DOE studies than is actually in there.

for one thing the DOE studies showed low fuel cell system cost with 100,000+ vehicles. Make 100,000 of anything and its really cheap, obviously. The question is how do you get the first 10,000 vehicles to market which will cost a lot more. And before than the 1000 vehicles that cost even more.

The DOE studies also warn against excessive extrapolation down to very low cost figures due to the uncertanties in the models. The models they use are macro models that will endlessly predict cost reductions, when in reality various cost floors are in order.

The studies also show that a smaller version would have a much higher cost per kWe so using a smaller range extender capacity is not a major economic upside as it seems. That's too bad, it likely means people won't pay for the extra money for the fuel cell and rather just have the gasoline range extender (that they only need 10-20% of the time so only 20% of the gasoline savings are there).

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