Kion Touts Fuel Cell Systems For Forklifts
January 13, 2023
The KION Group is expanding its hydrogen propulsion range. The global
intralogistics group will soon develop and produce its own fuel cell systems for
its industrial trucks. The company is going to invest more than €11 million in
this technology. The KION Group plans to launch its own 24 V fuel cell system
for warehouse equipment to the market in spring 2023. Completion of the fuel
cell portfolio is expected to follow in the coming years. This means that the
KION brands will soon be able to offer their customers everything they need from
a single source: the forklift, the fuel cells, and the associated service.
“As of today, the KION Group will be the only manufacturer of forklifts and
warehouse equipment in the European market to produce its own fuel cells,
something that truly sets us apart,” says Rob Smith, CEO of the KION GROUP AG.
“There is huge demand from our customers and we hope that this technology will
allow us to meet ever-increasing calls for intralogistics to become more
resource-conscious and sustainable, while at the same time also meet demands for
The group plans to supply the first forklift trucks with its own fuel cell
systems this year.
Easy and Practical, Fast and Clean
The advantages of fuel cell technology are manifold. The energy system does not
generate any emissions during operation, making it ideal for use in warehouses.
If the hydrogen also comes from regenerative sources, e.g., biogas or
electrolysis from sun or wind energy, it is climate neutral. A further advantage
of the energy system comes to the fore when stopping to fill up at the hydrogen
filling station: Fully refilling the tank takes just one to three minutes. This
helps minimize interruptions and increase the availability of forklifts—a
massive advantage for multi-shift operation and for large fleets. A further
advantage is that they contain no toxic acids or other pollutants, a real plus
not just in terms of recycling, but also for daily operation. For example, this
makes the fuel-cell drive an attractive alternative to a lead-acid battery,
particularly in hygiene-critical industries such as the pharmaceutical and food
Hydrogen Production at the Aschaffenburg Site
Alongside the development and production of fuel cell systems, the Group is also
installing its own hydrogen production at its Aschaffenburg site. The
construction work for a state-funded hydrogen filling station including
electrolyzer is nearly finished. After construction work on the hydrogen
infrastructure is completed, 21 hybrid fuel cell systems will be put into
operation and will replace the majority of the forklifts with combustion engines
that are currently in operation at the site.
Decades of Experience With This Energy Source
KION Group brands were quick to embrace the idea that hydrogen and fuel cell
technologies could offer significant potential for intralogistics. KION
subsidiary Linde Material Handling GmbH (Linde MH) has been focusing intensively
on this multi-faceted technology since 1997 and began series production of its
first trucks with this technology in 2010. Today, Linde MH offers one of the
widest portfolios of fuel cell drive industrial trucks on the market. Around 80%
of all models are available with this future-oriented drive technology,
including pallet trucks, tractors or reach trucks, and counterbalanced trucks.
The technology has also been a core part of KION subsidiary STILL GmbH’s product
portfolio for many years. For its customers, the company has been implementing
regular hydrogen projects for various truck types since 2003. STILL is currently
operating one of Europe’s largest fleets of forklift trucks with hydrogen drive
for a customer in France. KION subsidiary STILL has also entered into a
partnership with Hydrogentle GmbH to be able to better advise and support its
customers in all things fuel cell technology. The partnership is aimed at
planning special plant engineering projects, producing feasibility analyses, and
advising customers on the topic of hydrogen infrastructure, from initial
conversations through to the supply of complete hydrogen infrastructure for
filling industrial trucks.
Fuel Cell Technology in Industrial Trucks
In fuel cell systems, energy is obtained through a chemical reaction between
oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2), which feeds a compact lithium-ion battery. This
hybrid combination powers the forklift truck by supplying the drive and lifting
motors with energy. The fuel cell generates the electrical energy required to
operate the forklift truck directly on board. The only by-products generated
during “cold combustion” are heat, water vapor, and pure water.