Wanted: Fuel Cell Baggage-Towing Tractors

Got an idea for an advanced fuel cell baggage-towing tractor you’ve been dying to build and test but just don’t have the money? The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) wants to talk to you — and the result could be a nice, fat funding check.

As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil, the DOE recently announced it was making up to $2.5 million available this year to demonstrate and deploy fuel cell electric vehicles for transporting passenger baggage at major U.S. airports. The projects selected for funding will demonstrate first-generation, fuel-cell powered baggage towing tractors under real-world operating conditions, and collect and analyze data to test their performance and cost-effectiveness. The applicants need the ability to power a baggage tow tractor with 3,000 to 6,000 pounds towing capability for a minimum of 10 hours of continuous operation and 5,000 total hours.

mulag

image via Mulag

According to the release, the DOE hopes this funding will underscore a commitment to U.S. leadership in advanced fuel cell research and development, will help industry bring advanced fuel cell technologies into emerging markets and provide airlines and airports with new choices for ground support operations that cut energy costs, air pollution and petroleum use.

This is not the first time the DOE has dabbled in real-world fuel-cell deployments. Previous projects have brought fuel cell forklifts and back-up power for telecommunications systems into use. The agency claims that support for these early markets provides near-term manufacturing opportunities and experience that can be leveraged to inform more mainstream applications, such as light-duty vehicles, which can significantly reduce petroleum use.

The Department plans to select up to three projects, which will leverage funding from private and other sources. For more information, including application requirements and instructions, aspiring fuel cell innovators can visit the DOE’s website.

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.