Powering Through with Fuel Cells

June 12, 2020

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Fuel cells have long been keeping operations running smoothly and seamlessly for a lengthy list of customers in the healthcare, technology, communications, banking, and manufacturing/logistics worlds.  In today’s stark reality of a global pandemic, those sectors are more critical than ever.

The supply chain from manufacturer to store is always vital, but never more so than in a crisis. These past few months have seen the rapid transition to stay-at-home, work-from-home, and even teach-at-home orders limiting social and commercial interaction around the world. People need food, toiletries, and medicines to survive physically. Other items, such as books, games, home repair tools, and music, are helping everyone survive mentally.

Fuel cells keep operations running for customers in the healthcare, technology, communications, banking, manufacturing, and logistics sectors during the pandemic.

Fuel Cells Power Multiple Operations

Our economy had to quickly adjust to the realities of social distancing with more reliance than ever on technology to support an increasingly online world. Companies are adapting to service at-home shoppers. More people are teleworking and using video capabilities to connect with school teachers at every level, exercise classes, and friends and family online. This dependence on technology means that avoiding service outages is more important than ever. The list of technology and telecommunications companies using fuel cells to power cellphone towers, datacenters, corporate headquarters, utility substations, microgrids, and network transmission lines, reads like a who’s who of industry leaders. These companies have long been trusting fuel cells to power critical operations, and this technology has proven its capabilities even more so during these difficult times.

Retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, the Home Depot, and Target, along with grocers Kroger, Whole Foods, Wegman’s, and Stop & Shop, have been fuel cell customers for years. These companies, like many others, utilize fuel cells to power retail facilities and material handling equipment (MHE) in warehouses and distribution centers across the country. In total, fuel cell-powered forklifts and other MHE are supporting over 25% of our nation’s retail food distribution. To keep shelves stocked, these suppliers are working around the clock. Their use of fuel cell-powered equipment is saving precious time with longer duration and quicker refueling compared to other technologies.

The technology and telecommunications companies using fuel cells reads like a who’s who of industry leaders, and the technology has proven its capabilities even more so during these difficult times.

The Fuel Cell Industry Assisting in Many Ways

In addition to providing clean, efficient, and reliable power, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) is proud of and humbled by how our industry has stepped up during this unprecedented medical, economic, and humanitarian crisis.

For the past few months, after being deemed essential business by their respective state governments, several fuel cell providers and hydrogen generation companies continued operations. They have provided the necessary fuel cell systems and hydrogen to keep businesses powered and fuel cell-powered vehicles (FCV) and MHE fueled, keeping products moving across the country. In addition, some manufacturers have shifted focus from producing fuel cell systems or hydrogen-related components to helping fill the needs of frontline workers, first responders, and the citizens they are assisting.

This includes producing materials and parts to refurbish critical ventilators, as well as manufacturing respirators and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks and face shields.  Some companies have converted operations to produce hand sanitizer, donating that, as well as other PPE to local medical personnel. One fuel cell manufacturer refurbished more than 1,200 ventilators early in the pandemic. They also provided fuel cell systems, configured as microgrids, to power two auxiliary hospitals in California.

Fuel cell and hydrogen companies are making a difference, using expertise, technology, and altruism in this trying time.

FCVs Transporting Essential Workers During Pandemic

Daily transportation certainty is critical to ensure health care professionals and other essential workers can commute to their jobs. In California, FCV manufacturers have ensured their dealership service operations continue to support these important workers and other drivers, who have chosen zero emission FCVs for their daily transportation and commuting needs. Fuel cell-powered trucks are in operation at the nation’s busiest ports, helping ensure cargo is getting where it needs to go.

The U.S Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) held a webinar on Wednesday, May 27, entitled Leveraging Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Tech to Help Coronavirus Relief Efforts. This provided an overview of some of the efforts fuel cell and hydrogen companies are making, using expertise, technology, and altruism to make a difference in this trying time.

As we see the world pull together to fight this disease and stem the effects it has had on our physical, mental, and financial health, the fuel cell and hydrogen industry is proud to be among those able to assist in so many ways, impacting so many vital segments of daily life.