GenKey: Enabling the Auto Industry to Drive On, POWERAhead

August 20, 2015

Plug Power recently shared some detail about how our GenKey solution is greatly benefiting Walmart material handling operations across North America. But, it’s important to recognize that, while the retail and distribution industries are important to Plug Power’s growth strategy, another industry that continues to enable growth is auto-manufacturers.

Prestigious auto-manufacturing customers, including Honda, BMW, and Mercedes Benz (to name a few) have chosen GenKey, Plug Power’s turn-key solution that provides GenDrive fuel cells for their material handling vehicles, installation of an onsite GenFuel infrastructure with hydrogen fuel, storage and indoor fueling dispensers, and Plug Power’s year-round GenCare maintenance service package.

Auto manufacturers find that they can easily adopt hydrogen and fuel cells to power the material distribution fleets supporting their vehicle assembly operations. The result – superior benefits and lower operational costs.

VW Kassel GermanyWith our hydrogen and fuel cell solution, Plug Power provides predictability, productivity, and sustainability. The larger the fleet and the more inventory moved, the stronger the value proposition becomes. In other words, the elements of GenKey bring stronger value to automotive industry operations, where material handling fleets spend the day loading and unloading very heavy containers of auto parts that are used in vehicle assembly plants.

At its core, Plug Power’s hydrogen and fuel cell solutions are designed to save the customer time and money, bringing tremendous fleet improvement to automotive-manufacturing customers that otherwise could not be seen with lead-acid batteries powering the electric lift truck fleet. Let’s take a closer look at some of these benefits.

The Importance of Productivity
Our customers are seeing productivity improvements up to 15%. Not only do GenDrive fuel cells outperform lead-acid batteries, they also improve lift truck20140626_154400 uptime. Lead-acid batteries require changing once per shift – an activity that consumes approximately 15 minutes of worker time. This compares to an average of two minutes required for the hydrogen refueling of a GenDrive unit. Over the course of one year, those 13 extra minutes needed per shift for the battery change amounts to over 156 hours of lost productive time per forklift truck in a 3-shift operation.

To auto-manufacturing customers, uptime of production lines is critical. BMW tells us that when a production facility is operating 24/7, any downtime means lost sales (as much as $7,000 per minute in profits), as they cannot get back the lost time. Using BMW’s figures, regaining 156 hours of productivity has an economic value of more than $65 million! By using GenDrive, customers are able to operate at an elevated efficiency level protecting revenue for the organization.

Picture10The Power of Predictability
Hydrogen fuel cells have proven to be of enormous value to the auto-manufacturing industry because of the predictability they provide. GenDrive fuel cells remain at full power for an entire shift, regardless of the pallet weight being moved. In other words, consistent, expected power and performance, 100% of the time. Also, each forklift driver knows exactly when it’s time to refuel – when the forklift fuel gauge is on empty. When it’s time, the operator refuels in just minutes before getting back to work.

In comparison, power output from lead-acid batteries declines by up to 12 percent in one shift. This severely impacts the predictability of the industrial processes in a factory like this. More so, lift truck drivers must go to a centrally located battery room to change the depleted battery – which weigh up to three tons, making this a tedious, potentially dangerous activity that would distort a predictable process. Customers discover that Plug Power fuel cells solve all those problems.

It’s quite simple – GenDrive fuel cells allow auto manufacturing facilities to operate with more precise knowledge of their assembly capabilities. Lift truck drivers are always aware of their fuel level and they know that their GenDrive units can be quickly refueled and back on the floor right away, ensuring predictable delivery of parts to high-precision assembly lines. Customers install the fueling stations parallel to material flow, enabling convenient and fast fill-ups resulting in smooth and predictable operations.

The Influence of Sustainability
All of Plug Power’s auto manufacturing customers promote sustainability. Since GenDrive fuel cells operate cleanly and sustainably, producing zero harmful emissions, they have a positive impact on the environment, and allow companies to promote how GenKey supports their sustainability initiatives. This is a critical item for customers to meet corporate sustainability goals and becomes increasingly important as we work with customers in Europe where sustainability regulations are more stringent.

The Reach for Global ExpansionIMG_2331
All of our auto customers are global,
thus success seen at U.S. automotive manufacturing sites, like BMW, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz, open the door for global expansion of fuel cell use. We’ve identified specific factors about the European market that instill confidence that our GenKey solution will be impactful. Productivity improvements are very important in a lot of countries with high labor and electricity costs. Another important aspect for customers is the importance of sustainability and green initiatives to European customers, especially for the auto manufacturers where they have very clear goals set by the European Union to meet certain parameters on emissions.

Plug Power’s international business development and sales teams are currently working with vehicle manufacturing customers in Europe, including the UK, Germany, and Spain, to broaden the use of GenDrive and GenKey.

And, We’re not the only ones saying it!
Our customers are proud of their initiatives, and are not afraid to publicize them. Check out the videos below! It’s important to remember – these videos are development by the auto-manufacturing customer, not Plug Power.

BMW: One of the largest fuel cell fleets in the United States. BMW management discusses how Plug Power’s solutions help BMW focus on environmentally-friendly manufacturing.
Part 1:
Part 2:

Plug Power is not only developing value propositions that prove the economic benefits of GenDrive for auto-manufacturing material handling fleets, it is also helping these customers around the globe plan their strategies for deployment of the complete GenKey solution. We are encouraged by the adoption and the room for growth and expansion.