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Yokohama partnership to test green hydrogen supply chain in fuel cell forklift deployment

Steve Barrett – Editor, Fuel Cells Bulletin

A Japanese partnership, which includes the Yokohama and Kawasaki municipal governments alongside three industrial collaborators, is starting a new project to implement and evaluate an end-to-end, low-carbon hydrogen supply chain, which will use hydrogen produced from renewable energy to power forklifts.

Integrated low-carbon hydrogen supply

The four-year project will trial the building of a hydrogen supply chain, from the manufacture of CO2-free hydrogen produced using renewable energy, to its storage, transport and utilisation, as well as investigate the commercial feasibility of the supply chain.

This realisation of a simple, integrated system for utilising hydrogen has the overarching goal of contributing to future regional development while helping to mitigate global warming.

Industry–government partnership

The partnership comprises the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, the municipal governments of the City of Yokohama and Kawasaki City, working with Iwatani Corporation, Toshiba Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation. The project committee is chaired by Professor Kenichiro Ota of Yokohama National University, with vice-chair Professor Yoji Uchiyama of the University of Tsukuba.

The project, which was announced last September, will be carried out at facilities along Tokyo Bay in the neighbouring cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki, with support from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

Wind power generation

Electricity generated at the Yokohama City Wind Power Plant (Hama Wing) will be used to electrolyse hydrogen that is compressed, stored, and then transported in a hydrogen fueling truck to four sites in the Keihin Waterfront Area: a factory, a vegetable and fruit market, and two warehouses. At these locations, the hydrogen will be used in fuel cells to power forklifts in a wide range of operating conditions.

This low-carbon hydrogen supply chain is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80% compared with a conventional supply chain using forklifts powered by gasoline or grid electricity. The project aims to establish a hydrogen supply chain, investigate costs, and estimate potential CO2 reductions that can be achieved in the future with a fully fledged hydrogen supply chain.

Project overview

The project will comprise:

  • A system to produce hydrogen by electrolysing water using wind power.
  • A system to optimise the storage and transportation of hydrogen.
  • The use of hydrogen fuel cell powered forklifts.
  • A hydrogen supply chain feasibility study.

Hydrogen produced using wind energy

The first stage of the project comprises a system to produce hydrogen by electrolysing water using wind power. The hydrogen will be produced using renewable energy generated by a 2 MW Vestas wind turbine at Hama Wing to operate a water electrolysis system, which will consist of a PEM electrolyser from Toshiba, producing 10 Nm3/h of hydrogen.

The management system will enable flexible, CO2-free, hydrogen production that accounts for temporary discrepancies between power output and hydrogen demand.

Electricity will also be stored in an environmentally friendly storage battery system that reuses batteries from hybrid electric vehicles, thus ensuring a stable hydrogen supply even when Hama Wing is not operational. This storage battery system has been developed by Toyota Turbine and Systems Inc, and features 180 nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery cells with a total capacity of 150 kWh.

Transporting hydrogen to point-of-use

The next stage consists of a system to optimise the storage and transportation of compressed hydrogen. Sufficient hydrogen to power the fuel cells for two days will be stored onsite.

The hydrogen will be compressed for use in the fuel cell powered forklifts, and delivered in hydrogen fueling trucks built by Iwatani Corporation – the first of their kind to be used in Japan. These compact, 4 tonne hybrid trucks can carry 270 Nm3 of hydrogen, stored in two 300 litre tanks at 450 bar (6530 psi).

Fuel cell powered forklifts

The hydrogen produced will then be supplied at 350 bar (5000 psi) to the 12 fuel cell powered forklifts deployed for the project. Three forklifts will be operated at each of four selected locations, to demonstrate their viability in a range of operating conditions.

These first Japanese fuel cell powered forklifts were launched in February by Toyota Industries Corporation. They have a maximum load capacity of 2500 kg, and carry 13.4 Nm3 of hydrogen, which can be refueled in 3 minutes, rather than the 6–8 h it takes to recharge lead-acid batteries. The forklifts can be operated for a full 8 h shift on one fueling.

The consumption of hydrogen by the forklifts will be constantly monitored, to ensure optimal transportation and supply to meet user needs.

Four deployment locations

In Yokohama the forklifts will be deployed at the Main Branch of the Central Wholesale Market (to test frequent use over short distances) and at the Kirin Brewery (to test the transport of heavy objects).

In Kawasaki the deployments will be at the Kawasaki FAZ Logistics Center of Nakamura Logistics Inc (to test use on multiple floors indoors, and hydrogen fueling), and at the Higashi-Ogishima Distribution Center of Nichirei Logistics Group Inc (to test use in refrigerated transportation).

Hydrogen supply chain feasibility study

The feasibility study will focus on hydrogen costs and CO2 emissions reductions. Thus the demonstration project will provide data for assessing the future courses of action required to reduce hydrogen costs, including the establishment of a mass production process, and the steps needed to implement deregulation.

It will also contribute to discussions on developing a model to promote the adoption of hydrogen through technological innovation, and the development of fully fledged hydrogen supply chains, based on projections of needs in 2030.

For this timescale, potential scenarios include large-scale wind power generation and locations where low/medium usage is concentrated, large-scale and remote-location wind power generation and transmission, and remote islands.

The project will also focus on reducing CO2 emissions, with current estimates suggesting that the establishment of this low-carbon supply chain will reduce emissions by at least 80%, compared with a conventional supply chain using forklifts powered by gasoline or grid electricity. The project will also promote the investigation of methods to further reduce CO2 emissions.

Project schedule

Following a preparatory period, trial operations of the project are scheduled to begin in the autumn, with the introduction of a single forklift at two facilities, and the initiation of the hydrogen delivery system using hydrogen refueling trucks.

Full-scale operations will start in FY2017 (i.e. from April 2017), when a total of 12 forklifts will be deployed, with three at each of the four facilities. During this time, the entire system will start operating, including production, storage, compression, delivery, and utilisation of hydrogen.


This article is based on an article originally published in the April 2016 issue of the Fuel Cells Bulletin.

About the author

Steve Barrett is the editor of the Fuel Cells Bulletin, and contributes to the fuel cells & energy storage section of Follow him on Twitter at @FCBulletin

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power