Mercedes-Benz expands use of hydrogen fuel cells at vehicle assembly plant

Following deployment of 72 fuel cell units in July 2012, another 123 will be rolled out in new facility.

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Plug Power, a leader in providing clean, reliable energy solutions, has announced that Mercedes-Benz US International has ordered 123 additional hydrogen-based GenDrive fuel cell units to power new forklift trucks for its material handling fleet at a logistics hub now under construction in Tuscaloosa, AL.

Last July, Mercedes purchased 72 GenDrive fuel cells for the Hyster lift truck fleet at its Tuscaloosa vehicle assembly plant. Earlier this year, construction began on a brand new $70 million, 900,000 square-foot state-of-the-art warehouse. This new facility is designed to streamline logistics operations and support the receiving, handling and sequencing of parts for M-Class and GL-Class SUVs and R-Class crossover vehicles currently in production, as well as for the successor generation of the current C-Class for the North American market beginning in 2014. It is expected that the new GenDrive-powered forklift fleet will be operational by the fourth quarter of 2013.

Plug Power’s GenDrive fuel cell is designed as a drop-in replacement for lead-acid batteries. It is a more efficient, cost-effective method of providing clean energy for warehouse and distribution operations. Not only does fuel cell usage eliminate the possibility of lead and acid contamination in the workplace, it also eliminates the need for battery storage and re-charging rooms in the new logistics hub.

Compact refueling stations will be available in several locations within the facility, with hydrogen provided by Air Products (NYSE: APD). Fuel cells take only minutes to fully re-fuel, whereas batteries can take hours to reach maximum charge. In addition, fuel cells keep lift trucks running at constant speed, unlike batteries, which cause vehicles to slow as their charge runs down.

“The Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa has experienced first-hand the value of GenDrive fuel cells to operate its forklift fleet,” said Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power. “Success with their initial implementation has led Mercedes to broaden their commitment to sustainable energy by ordering even more GenDrive units to power the fleet in their new logistics center.”

It is anticipated that the coming logistics center, which will be as large as the current vehicle assembly plant, will receive about 240 semi-trailer truck deliveries daily and the GenDrive hydrogen fuel cell-powered lift trucks will handle approximately 2.9 million automotive parts per day.

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