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Nacco Materials Handling Group, Inc., the operating company for the forklift manufacturer Hyster-Yale Materials Handling Inc., has bought Nuvera Fuel Cells, a leading developer of fuel cell systems and hydrogen generating and dispensing products for forklifts and other industrial vehicles.
While the company did not disclose how much it paid for the fuel cell company, it did announced that the purchase comes with contingency payments that are expected to be paid to Nuvera shareholders based on future deployment of certain elements of the acquired technology.
The Future of Fuel Cells
The purchase of Nuvera — which is based in Billerica, Massachusetts, and has plants throughout North America and Europe — is the latest move by Hyster-Yale to offer fuel cells for the forklifts it designs and builds, as well as other supporting fuel technologies related to its product lines. Hyster-Yale has said it is the first “major” forklift company to commit to the full development of fuel cells in its products.
“The acquisition of Nuvera creates a unique capability to integrate fuel cell with lift truck in a way which optimizes the performance and energy efficiency of the combined system, in conjunction with the ability to provide full life cycle maintenance, service and fueling requirements, to meet customers’ needs and offer a low overall cost of ownership alternative,” Hyster-Yale stated in a news release announcing the purchase.
Fuel Cell Tecnhologies
Nacco plans to commercialize Nuvera’s research and technology through the integration of fuel-cell technology in its forklift product line. That will allow Hyster-Yale to offer factory-fitted fuel cell applications as well as hydrogen generation and delivery capabilities.
It will also offer aftermarket solutions designed to fit most electric-powered industrial vehicles currently in use. These products will be directly marketed to Hyster-Yale customers.
Despite the acquisition announcement, however, Nacco warned that the commercialization of products that use Nuvera’s technologies is still in the development stages and that it could be several years before they find their way to the market place.
Operating at a Loss
Nuvera is expected to absorb “significant operating losses” for the next two to three years while it words to get the technologies to its customers and achieve break-even results, according to the news release. The company expects to spend up to $50 million per year between now and about 2017 on additional research and development.
Hyster-Yale makes forklifts and replacement parts under the brand names Hyster and Yale. The company has manufacturing facilities in the US, Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Holland, Italy and Northern Ireland.
How Fuel Cells Work
Fuel cells are devices that convert fuel into electricity using a chemical reaction involving oxygen or another oxidizing agent. Unlike batteries, fuel cells need constant supplies of the fuel and of oxygen. But as long as those are supplied, the fuel cell can produce electricity continually. The fuel they use might be hydrogen, natural gas or methanol.
The most famous early use of fuel cells was creating power for NASA space capsules, satellites and probes. Today they can be found in various commercial and industrial buildings, particularly in out-of-the-way or hard-to-access areas.
Fuel cells can power virtually any vehicle, including cars, boats and forklifts. A recent article from Fuel Cell Today, published online at http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/ , poses the question of whether or not successful utilization of fuel cells in regions including the U.S. materials handling equipment industry will spread to other parts of the world.