Battery-driven Transport Vehicles

Posted in: , on 8. Jun. 2011 - 18:08

Demag Cranes and HHLA begin fleet operation with battery-driven container transport vehicles

Fully-automated battery-change station is put into service

The zero-emissions terminal takes a leap forward

Düsseldorf, Germany, June 8, 2011 - The first fully-automated battery-powered Gottwald Automated Guided Vehicles (Battery AGVs) have been put into regular fleet service at HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA) in Hamburg, Germany. As an integral part of the equipment, the fully-automated battery-changing station, which ensures a seamless power supply to the Battery AGVs, was also commissioned. As a result of this breakthrough, Demag Cranes AG, represented by its subsidiary Gottwald Port Technology GmbH, together with Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) have taken the next hurdle on the way to the zero-emissions terminal. HHLA and Demag Cranes have, for several years, been cooperating on technological developments and one of their aims has been to eradicate exhaust gas in the terminal.

One core field of interest is the gradual replacement of diesel-electric AGVs with more efficient, ecologically compatible battery-powered AGVs. The project was subsidised by the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) to promote electrical mobility in commercial vehicles and is also supported by the Institute for Vehicle Technology (ika) at the RWTH Aachen University and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg GmbH (ifeu).

Aloysius Rauen, CEO of Demag Cranes AG, emphasises: "As we concentrate on our strategy of offering as many products as possible with zero emissions, the Battery AGV represents a key milestone along that road. Use of the battery-powered drive train is not restricted to AGVs; indeed, drives of this kind offer tremendous potential in connection with other cargo-handling machinery in ports, heavy-load vehicles at airports and within industrial sites."

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Prototypes with automated battery changing and charging station in daily operation

After the technological initiative vehicle completed its tests so successfully, the follow-up cooperation phase was launched in the summer of 2010. In the coming months, two battery-driven AGVs will be operating as prototypes in the fleet in everyday working conditions at HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder, including the fully-automated battery changing and charging station.

This had been preceded by extensive tests using a conventional AGV converted to battery operation. That vehicle operated on test routes alongside those AGVs involved in active handling to gather long-term technical feedback on the new technology, battery behaviour & service life, and vehicle control.

Besides demonstrating average running time on one battery charge that well exceeded the time required to recharge in the battery changing station, this trial period showed that significant reductions in fleet overheads are possible. Initial results of the environmental impact as assessed by ifeu show that the overall CO2 rating is considerably improved. Added to this is the complete elimination of local CO2 emissions.

In contrast to the technological initiative vehicle, the prototypes are equipped with a change-frame that houses the battery cells and which is fitted with a coupling mechanism for automated changing slung below the middle of the container platform, which is where the diesel engine and its ancillary modules used to be installed.

Around-the-clock working requires uncompromising availability

To guarantee the uninterrupted availability of the AGVs, it is not possible to recharge the battery cells in situ. Recharging takes several hours, which necessitates the removal of the battery pack and replacement with a fresh set. As a result, operating Battery AGVs means that the battery change procedure becomes a key issue. To master the challenge, the core partners cooperated closely with Vollert Anlagenbau GmbH to develop and build a completely new battery-changing station.

This station consists of a combination of a high-bay shelving system and a rail-mounted storage and retrieval machine (S/R machine). Inside the individual slots in the high-bay shelving system, the batteries are connected to the charger. The S/R machine exchanges the vehicle's battery for a freshly charged one and, within only five minutes, the container transporter is back on track and ready for the next job. As with all other activities in the transport area, the self-navigating AGVs find their own way to the battery changing station to replace their batteries and then go back to work fully automatically.

Battery drives offer exciting prospects

By testing the Battery AGV in everyday operation, it will now be possible to confirm the results gained from the technological initiative tests. At the same time, the objective is to test the behaviour of the battery pack in its final position in the vehicle under normal operating and site conditions and to assess and consolidate the automated changing and charging procedures. In addition to this, further measures are being developed and implemented to improve the efficiency of the system still more, such as smart battery charging strategies. The aim is eventually to replace the entire AGV fleet with battery-powered vehicles.

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battery-driven container transport vehicles (JPG)

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