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July 25, 20232 min read

Power Sources Transition in Material Handling

This is a summary from the presentation by the same title by Felix Garrard, Market Product Manager at Fenwick-Linde, at the Future of Electrification 2023 conference. Watch the full session here:

During his presentation Felix Garrad discussed the transition towards electric power sources in material handling equipment. He highlighted the French market as a leader in this transition, with most material handling equipment in the country already being electric. The trend is expected to continue, leading to a further reduction in demand for internal combustion (IC) equipment in the market, and a shift towards lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

Lithium-ion batteries have emerged at the forefront of the market due to their lower operating costs and superior throughput. In France, where electricity prices are relatively affordable, transitioning to lithium-ion batteries has become a financially feasible option. Another factor contributing to their exceptional performance is their significantly faster charging times. They can reach a full charge in under two hours. In comparison, lead acid batteries, can take up to eight hours to charge. Hydrogen fuel cells are also an exciting option for the future. While they require a high initial investment, they offer increased independence from the electrical grid, which is essential in countries with electricity shortages or where the grid is not available to bring high power demands to the customer.

When considering energy solutions for material handling, it is essential to consider factors, such as reducing carbon footprint, rather than solely focusing on price. This comprehensive approach ensures the selection of the most suitable energy source for the specific application.

For example, if a customer is looking for the cheapest energy source, IC may no longer be the optimal choice. Diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) solutions incur high operating costs due to the high price of fuel and high CO2 emissions, whereas lithium-ion batteries present a better alternative with lower costs and reduced emissions.

When evaluating energy solutions for material handling, it is important to consider productivity and equipment availibility. Historically, IC engines have been favored since they can quickly be refueled, enabling continuous operation for extended amounts of time. However, lithium-ion batteries have already shown that they can be just as efficient as IC vehicles. They provide fast and hassle-free charging, along with lower heat emissions, ensuring enhanced safety and convenience. While hydrogen fuel cells are also a viable option, their practicality depends on having a large fleet of vehicles. The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen fuel cells, including storage, compression, and refueling stations, can be costly. Consequently, smaller operations may find that hydrogen fuel cells are less suitable for their needs.

The energy transition in material handling is already underway, with lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells emerging as the leading options. While lithium-ion batteries are the more practical option for most customers today, hydrogen fuel cells offer a promising future with a higher level of independence from the electricity grid. When choosing an energy source, it is important to consider multiple factors, including cost, productivity, and environmental impact, to choose the energy source that best suits the application’s needs.