The group plans to launch its own 24 V fuel cell system for warehouse equipment this spring.

This means that the group’s brands will soon be able to offer their customers everything from a single source: the forklift, fuel cells, and associated service.

CEO Rob Smith said, “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.  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 rapid refuelling.”

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, with refilling taking one-to-three minutes. This helps minimise interruptions and increase the availability of forklifts, a major advantage for multi-shift operations and 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 industries.

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 electrolyser 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.

The group brands were quick to embrace the idea that hydrogen and fuel cell technologies could offer significant potential for intralogistics. Subsidiary Linde Material Handling (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 subsidiary STILL’s product portfolio, 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. It has also entered into a partnership with Hydrogentle 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.

At the end of 2021, more than 1.6 million industrial trucks and over 8,000 installed systems from the group were in use by customers from all manner of sectors and of varying sizes on six continents. It currently has around 40,000 employees and generated revenue of approximately €10.3bn in the 2021 financial year.