Issue: Oct 2010


Linde Hydrogen Helps BMW’s South Carolina Auto Plant Get Greener and Cleaner



BMW’s auto manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina is getting greener and cleaner, thanks in part to a hydrogen fueling system provided by Linde North America

by Jon Knox

Linde North America is a member of The Linde Group, one of the world’s largest hydrogen energy producers and a leader in developing alternative fuel technologies. BMW Manufacturing Co. is a subsidiary of BMW AG in Munich, Germany and is the global producer of the BMW X3 and X5 Sports Activity Vehicles and X6 Sports Activity Coupe.

Linde is supplying a hydrogen fueling system with six indoor dispenser stations to support more than 85 pieces of material handling equipment operating inside BMW’s plant. The lifts and trucks deliver process parts to assembly machines throughout the plant.

The trucks are having their lead acid batteries replaced with hydrogen fuel cells from Latham, N.Y.-based Plug Power Inc., the leading provider of hydrogen based fuel cells in the material handling market.

“Linde wants to bring hydrogen into use as an everyday fuel. This will improve environmental sustainability, lower emissions and reduce our dependence on foreign fuel,” said Mike Beckman, vice president of Linde’s alternative energy team.

Beckman said, “Hydrogen already is one of the most promising alternative fuels. Because of the way it is produced, the hydrogen we supply to BMW is truly green, with only a small carbon footprint incurred during shipping.” The hydrogen is a by-product of a sodium chlorate plant; Linde purifies, compresses and liquefies it using electricity produced from renewable hydropower.

BMW has just completed a 1.5 million square foot expansion and renovation of its Spartanburg plant in order to produce the new BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle. Production began in September.

This is the first time BMW has used hydrogen fueled fork lift trucks in any of its plants. “BMW is pleased to work with partners that share our commitment to clean production. The implementation of a hydrogen fuel cell-based application for our material handling equipment helps solidify BMW’s position as the leading sustainable automotive manufacturer,” stated Robert Hitt, Department Manager of Public Affairs for BMW Manufacturing.

BMW is able to boost productivity in two ways: Refueling these trucks with hydrogen takes an operator less than three minutes, compared with 15-20 minutes to change out a battery. Also, fuel cells do not degrade over time, as do lead-acid batteries when they begin losing their charge toward the end of a shift. BMW also is able to reduce its total electricity demand, since no battery recharging is required, and eliminate the environmental disposal costs for lead acid batteries.

Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power, said, “We are pleased BMW has selected Linde as the hydrogen provider at their new manufacturing facility. “Linde is a leader in the safe production, handling and supply of hydrogen and it makes sense they would be chosen to work with BMW to help them achieve their sustainability goals.”

Linde is a leading supplier of hydrogen fueling systems, having equipped over 70 stations in 15 countries. In the U.S., Linde has supplied stations for fork lift trucks at distribution centers for large retail, soft drink and food service companies.

BMW is using Linde’s Ionic Compressor fueling system, which has been used extensively in Europe for cars and buses and now is being introduced to North America. “The Ionic Compressor is a step-change for hydrogen fueling. It is a high-efficiency, high-throughput, low-maintenance and low-noise compression solution that fuels vehicles quickly and safely,” Beckman said.

The Linde Group is a world leading gases and engineering company with almost 48,000 employees working in more than 100 countries worldwide. In the 2009 financial year it achieved sales of EUR 11.2 billion (USD 15.3 billion). The strategy of The Linde Group is geared towards sustainable earnings-based growth and focuses on the expansion of its international business with forward-looking products and services.

Linde acts responsibly towards its shareholders, business partners, employees, society and the environment – in every one of its business areas, regions and locations across the globe. Linde is committed to technologies and products that unite the goals of customer value and sustainable development.

For more information, visit Linde North America online at http://www.lindeus.com


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