What looks like a golf cart and is capable of pulling 40,000 pounds of cargo, while operating quietly with zero emissions?
The world’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered ground support vehicle is what. A ribbon-cutting ceremony held at Memphis International Airport on April 9, 2015 marked the start of a two-year demonstration of the world’s first zero-emissions, hydrogen fuel cell powered ground support equipment. Over the two years of real-world operation at Federal Express’s airport hub location, the 15-vehicle fleet is expected to save more than 175,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 1,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide. There are more than 60,000 ground support equipment trucks in North America, representing an important market and opportunity to offer further energy and environmental benefits at airports.
Latham, NY-based developer Plug Power provided the fuel cell systems, which were integrated into the cargo tugs of leading airport utility vehicle developer Charlatte America; hydrogen is supplied by Plug Power’s hydrogen delivery systems. The project is funded through a $2.5 million grant from the Energy Department’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO), with a matching $2.5 million cost share from private sector partners.
Previous hydrogen and fuel cells R&D funded by DOE has resulted in more than 500 patents, 40 commercial technologies on the market, and 65 emerging technologies anticipated to be in the market in three to five years. Other early market applications enabled by DOE funding—such as fuel cell-based forklifts and backup power—have already resulted in an increase in industry deployment of five to ten times without DOE funding.
The ceremony was hosted by FedEx Express and attended by U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen, a delegation of DOE officials (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Sustainable Transportation Reuben Sarkar, FCTO Director Sunita Satyapal, Project Manager Jim Alkire), and project industry partners (FedEx Express, Plug Power).