Nissan Factory to Employ Oorja Fuel Cells

Nissan North America (NNA) (Nasdaq: NSANY) announced that it will deploy methanol fuel cells made by Oorja Protonics to power its material handling equipment (tugs) at its Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant.

The methanol fuel cells, OorjaPac(TM), are expected to provide a more energy efficient and cost effective battery-charging process for the 60 tugs that are used to transport thousands of vehicle parts throughout the 5.4 million-square-foot facility.

Mark Sorgi, manager, Material Handling. "The fuel cells, that are fueled by methanol, are helping us in both areas by reducing our CO2 emissions and better utilizing our resources."

By using OorjaPac, Nissan is able to get rid of more than 70 electric battery chargers that were consuming almost 540,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. This will reduce Nissan’s electric bill and eliminate more than 300 tons of CO2 emissions.

Methanol is an alternative liquid transportation fuel that is derived from various sources including wood, grass, landfills, natural gas and coal. Nissan is retrofitting the 60 tugs with methanol fuel cells that are filled with methanol by the technicians who drive them. The fuel cell provides a constant charge that puts less strain on the tugs electrical system, increasing the life of the battery and other electrical parts, Nissan said.

"The methanol fuel cells have made us more productive by saving us almost 35 hours a day that were spent by employees changing out batteries," said Sorgi. "There’s no changing out of low or dead batteries, which involves a battery technician and 15 to 20 minutes. Now the tug driver can refill the fuel cell in less than one minute and they’re on their way."

Since no batteries are exchanged and the drivers refuel the tugs themselves, some battery technicians have been moved to other value-added positions in the plant.

Nissan said, the methanol fuel cells proved to be a worthwhile investment for Nissan after an 18-month trial period in the Smyrna plant.

Fremont, California-based Oorja Protonics designs, develops, and manufacturers direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC). Founded in 2005, Oorja is a privately-held company and is backed by venture capital firms Sequoia Capital, Spring Ventures, McKenna Management and DAG Ventures.

Following three years of development and customer trial programs held in relative secrecy, Oorja Protonics (Oorja), revealed its first commercial fuel cell product in March 2008.

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