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The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) is the trade association for the fuel cell and hydrogen energy industry, and is dedicated to the commercialization of fuel cells and hydrogen energy technologies. Fuel cells and hydrogen energy technologies deliver clean, reliable power to leading edge corporate, academic and public sector users, and FCHEA members are helping to transform our energy future. FCHEA represents the full global supply chain, including universities, government laboratories and agencies, trade associations, fuel cell materials, components and systems manufacturers, hydrogen producers and fuel distributors, utilities and other end users.

Fuel Cell-Powered Port Vehicles

In Transition

Fuel Cell-Powered Port Vehicles

Justin Lewis

In 2016, the United States alone exported goods worth $1.32 trillion and imported $2.12 trillion, and much of that was transported between countries via ships.   Previously, In Transition has looked at the role of fuel cells and hydrogen energy in powering those ships to propel their transition away from diesel-powered engines. However, the maritime industry’s reliance on fossil fuels extends beyond the water to the shores and ports as well.

Ports oversee moving all those goods to and from ships. To do so, they traditionally rely on diesel-powered material handling equipment, heavy-duty trucks and tractors, and a range of other vehicles. The United States Environmental Protection Agency writes that near-port communities are often disproportionately impacted by emissions from these vehicles, due to port operations, goods movement operations, and other industries that may be co-located with ports.

As a result, many ports and the governments where they are located have crafted policies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and harmful pollutants.  Improving energy efficiency, switching to low-sulfur diesel, and installing and requiring ships to use a port’s auxiliary power are examples of policies that have made great progress in reducing pollution and environmental damage inside and outside of ports.  However, to achieve significant progress will require replacing fossil fuels with alternative sources of energy, such as fuel cells.

Fuel cells and hydrogen energy provide the long run time, quick refueling, and quiet, efficient power required to meet the fast-paced and constantly moving demands of ports.  The port also provides an ideal environment for hydrogen energy and fuel cells, offering centralized, large-scale production, storage and refueling sites for various applications.  Hydrogen energy and fuel cells can also be used for propulsion and auxiliary services, transporting cargo, loading and unloading of ships, generating electricity for lighting, security, and electronics. 

The Port of Long Beach, one of the world’s busiest marine commerce facilities, is leading the way in the transition to a port powered by fuel cells and hydrogen energy. FCHEA member Toyota currently operates two prototype fuel cell semi-trucks – code-named “Project Portal” to transport goods between the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles.

The Project Portal "Beta" truck under test runs at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Source: Toyota USA

The Project Portal "Beta" truck under test runs at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Source: Toyota USA

Toyota has also joined FCHEA member FuelCell Energy to build a megawatt-scale carbonate fuel power generation plant with a hydrogen fueling station. This plant will produce 2.35 MW of electricity and 1.2 tons of 100 percent renewable hydrogen each day. The hydrogen will be produced from agricultural waste and be used to fuel heavy-duty trucks at the port.

Funding for this project has been secured by the Port of Long Beach – courtesy of the California Air Resources Board – to commercially deploy the first heavy-duty truck at the port. In addition, a yard terminal tractor (a large four-wheeled vehicle intended to move semi-trailers within a cargo yard) will operate at the Long Beach Container Terminal as a demonstration project.

The neighboring Port of Los Angeles isn’t sitting out on the zero-emissions action though: last month, they preliminarily awarded $41 million for a variety of hydrogen fuel cell freight transportation projects, including ten new heavy-duty trucks and two hydrogen refueling stations to support them.

On October 19 at the GreenPort Congress in Valencia, Spain, Hyster provided an exclusive look at their zero-emissions container handler under development. In addition to a lithium ion battery, the vehicle will also be powered by a fuel cell from FCHEA member Nuvera, a subsidiary of Hyster. The design is being funded by a grant from the State of California. The vehicle was previously shown in sketches and digital renderings, but at the GreenPort Congress, Hyster revealed the first photograph and a movie of the first drive of the model in development.

Photo of the hybrid fuel cell-battery-powered container handler under development by Hyster for use in California. Source: Hyster

Photo of the hybrid fuel cell-battery-powered container handler under development by Hyster for use in California. Source: Hyster

Bringing all these hydrogen fuel cell-powered transportation applications together in one central location can provide a sustainable, zero-emission solution and facilitate the continual growth of a global clean energy economy.