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

Düsseldorf,   08. June 2011

  • Fully-automated battery-change station is put into service
  • The zero-emissions terminal takes a leap forward

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."

Additional information:

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.

About Demag Cranes
The Demag Cranes Group is one of the world’s leading suppliers of industrial cranes and crane components, harbour cranes and terminal automation technology. Services, in particular maintenance and refurbishment services, are another key element of the Group’s business activities. The Group is divided into the business segments Industrial Cranes, Port Technology and Services and has strong and well-established Demag and Gottwald brands. Demag Cranes sees its core competence in the development and construction of technically sophisticated cranes and hoists as well as automated transport and logistics systems in ports and terminals, the provision of services for these products and the manufacture of high-quality components.

As a global supplier, Demag Cranes manufactures in 16 countries on five continents and operates a worldwide sales and service network that is present in over 60 countries through its subsidiaries such as Demag Cranes & Components GmbH and Gottwald Port Technology GmbH, agencies and a joint venture. In financial year 2009/2010, the Group, with its 5,711 employees, generated revenue of EUR 931.3 million. Since the end of June 2006, the Demag Cranes share (WKN: DCAG01) has been listed in the Prime Standard of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and is traded on various indices including the MDAX®.

Demag Cranes AG. We Can Handle It.


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