South Korea’s first hydrogen logistics hub uses fuel cell forklifts

In a trial project comprising an asset management firm, a logistics company, and a joint venture between SK E&S and Plug Power, an American producer of hydrogen fuel cell turnkey solutions, hydrogen fuel cell forklifts will be used for the development of South Korea’s first eco-friendly hydrogen logistics center.

SK Plug Hyverse, a joint venture between Plug Power and SK E&S, has signed a memorandum of agreement with Coupang Fulfillment Services (CFS) and Kendall Square Asset Management, according to SK E&S, an energy company linked with South Korea’s SK Group. CFS, the logistics division of Coupang, a global ecommerce platform headquartered in Seoul, operates over 100 logistics warehouses, whilst Kendall operates 42.

Beginning in the second half of 2023, a portion of the electric forklifts utilized by the CFS logistics center in Mokcheon, 75 kilometers (47 miles) south of Seoul, will be converted to hydrogen fuel cell technology. “This business arrangement is significant because it has created the groundwork for the development of the first eco-friendly hydrogen logistics hub in South Korea,” SK Plug Hyverse CEO Lee Ji-young said in a September 1 statement.

CFS records and analyzes hydrogen forklift operation data. Hyverse will provide hydrogen forklifts, charge station construction, and hydrogen fuels. Kendall is responsible for supplying charging station locations and acquiring licenses. They would attempt to implement a hydrogen logistics model at logistic hubs managed by Coupang and Kendall Square.

The logistics industry is attempting to minimize carbon emissions by adopting electric forklifts powered by batteries. Due to their shorter charging time and extended operating duration, hydrogen forklifts can boost job efficiency and output.

SK E&S emphasized the competitive advantage of Plug Power’s hydrogen fuel cell system, which could be easily installed in the battery compartment of electric forklifts. In the western port city of Incheon, Hyverse will construct a massive facility to produce fuel cells and water electrolysis equipment for Asian markets. The production will commence in 2024. The “Giga” facility is intended to support Incheon’s desire to rejuvenate hydrogen public transportation and utilize hydrogen for city buses.

South Korea is investing significantly in hydrogen fuel cells as a new source of energy. In December 2021, a government-sponsored program to test hydrogen fuel cell-powered cargo trucks in logistics services was initiated. The purpose of the test operation employing 11-ton Hyundai demonstration trucks was to hasten the conversion of heavy trucks into environmentally friendly vehicles.