Energy- and resource-efficient products

Part of the non-financial report
NfR: Product-related GHG emissions


One action field in the KION sustainability programme focuses on delivering efficient products that conserve resources – and in doing so, on reducing greenhouse gases. The definition of relevant KPIs is currently being developed. Various performance indicators are being tested for their suitability, among them the number of industrial trucks with alternative drives sold, the number of alternative drives offered and fleet consumption.

Save energy, reduce emissions

The KION Group wants to be a leader in the materials handling market when it comes to the efficient use of energy in its products and solutions. Depending on the drive technology, the company faces different challenges: For vehicles with combustion engines, for instance, the focus is on constantly tightened limit values and thus rising acquisition and manufacturing costs. As far as electric drives are concerned, the development of the corresponding entry-level products and the availability of suitable battery cells on the procurement markets remain the key challenges.

Regardless of the drive technology, the KION Group’s goal is always to find the ideal solution for the application in question, which combines the lowest possible total cost of ownership for the customer with maximum environmental protection, particularly by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the products. Since energy and fuel consumption during the service life is both the biggest cost factor and emission driver (see Overview of the product lifecycle), the drives’ energy efficiency is always the top priority. The KION Group is continuously working to optimise the various drive variants, focusing both on the further development of combustion engine drives and the development of powerful electric drive technologies. At present, a large number of projects in the operating units are concerned with reducing fuel consumption or emissions.

Clear trend towards electric drives

Thanks in no small part to the high energy efficiency of its premium brands’ products, the KION Group is a global market leader in electric forklift trucks and warehouse trucks and intends to strengthen this position further in the future. One particular focus of the ‘KION 2027’ strategy is to develop and commercialise new energy sources for industrial trucks and related services, such as providing advice on energy matters.

In the fiscal year 2018, the KION Group applied several measures that made target achievement more tangible. The energy-efficient lithium-ion batteries are now available at Linde and STILL throughout the entire fleet. Linde is also supporting the use of energy-conserving drive technology in intralogistics with a new rental concept, allowing customers to benefit from flexibility and economic certainty over the entire service life. The sales teams were also trained in this field, in particular to advise customers on the most energy-efficient operation of their vehicles.

Through the strategic partnership with EP Equipment, Co., Ltd., Hangzhou, a leading Chinese manufacturer of warehouse technology products, the KION Group will also able to expand its market position in the entry-level segment for light warehouse technology equipment and will further drive electrification using lithium-ion technology in this market as well.

Generally speaking, lithium-ion batteries offer a host of benefits over conventional lead-acid batteries, such as faster charging times, as well as a three to four-times longer service life, and a significantly higher energy efficiency of over 90 per cent. This allows customers to achieve savings of around 30 per cent both in terms of their energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions compared to a conventional battery-charger combination. Setup and maintenance costs are also reduced, and the faster charging times open up completely new and more flexible operating models. And because there is no outgassing during charging, special charging areas are no longer required.

As batteries for the KION Group’s products are designed specifically for the trucks, and the battery and truck communicate with each other via a smart energy management system, virtually 100 per cent of the available energy can be utilised.

At the customer’s request, fuel cells can also be integrated into LMH EMEA and STILL EMEA’s industrial trucks. Complementing the lithium-ion technology, LMH EMEA aims to offer a full range of fuel-cell trucks as well. Around 80 per cent of all Linde electric forklift trucks can currently be equipped with fuel cells. STILL offers fuel cells on a project basis as an alternative to its comprehensive lithium-ion portfolio.

This technology generates the electrical energy required by the electric drives for propulsion, hydraulics and auxiliary units directly on board the truck – virtually emissions-free. The proven electric drive systems can therefore be employed, but 1:1 replacement of lead-acid batteries by fuel cells in an existing mass-produced model remains a challenge that only a few manufacturers are rising to meet. Developers are also focusing on the durability and reliability of systems, as well as the required vehicle-refuelling infrastructure. The limited supply of fuel cells with the required power output is hampering progress, as cells that can deliver more than 10kW of power are currently not available. In 2018, the KION Group’s position as a technology leader in fuel-cell propulsion was underpinned by various major orders: In November 2018, for instance, French retailer Carrefour commissioned the largest fleet of hydrogen-powered industrial trucks in Europe to date, comprising a total of 137 STILL warehouse trucks. From January 2019 on, an additional 70 Linde P30C tow tractors with fuel cells will be running at the BMW plant in Leipzig, supplementing the existing eleven vehicles from the H2-Intradrive project.

In the SCS segment, innovative and energy-saving drive technologies are also a key topic. Dematic storage and retrieval systems have been equipped with energy-recovery systems as standard since as far back as 1995. Thanks to the lightweight construction and energy recovery system, energy savings of up to 29 per cent are achievable compared to systems without these characteristics.

Further specific electrification measures are planned for 2019. In the area of storage and retrieval devices, for instance, developers are working on so-called Super Caps. These capacitors with a particularly high capacity act as storage for generator-generated energy if, for example, it is not possible or undesirable to feed excess energy back into the supply network. The SCS experts are also working on replacing pneumatic components with electrically operated actuators and on continuously reducing the weight of products and parts.

Continuous optimisation of drives with combustion engine drives

Even if electric drives are undoubtedly on the advance, industrial trucks with diesel or liquid gas combustion engines remain an important alternative in many areas of application. The KION Group therefore continues to work on constantly reducing the environmental impact of trucks fitted with combustion engines.

The European Union’s Euro V emission standard being implemented in 2019 tightens pollutant limits by up to 98 per cent. The new standard requires the use of a particulate filter for diesel engines and a catalytic converter for liquid gas engines. All affected KION Group model series are currently being retrofitted accordingly.

For years, Linde and STILL industrial trucks have been among the lowest-emission trucks on the market in all load-capacity classes. For instance, the particle mass of pollutant emissions of a Linde H25 to H35 EVO diesel industrial truck is 98 per cent lower than the statutory limit. In terms of hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) they are 37 per cent lower than the limit, and for carbon monoxide (CO) 9 per cent. STILL model series RX70 diesel industrial trucks achieve similar outstanding results. This means customers and the environment benefit in equal measure, with achievable fuel savings of up to 17 per cent versus the competition, according to the work cycle defined in VDI Guideline 2198.

Overview of the product lifecycle

Ever since 2014, customers of LMH EMEA who want to assess and improve their environmental performance have received robust data. Together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP) and certified by TÜV Rheinland, Linde has developed its own methodology to assess the environmental impact of its trucks over their entire lifecycle – from the extraction of raw materials, production of each individual component, and use by the customer, to recycling at the end of the product lifecycle.

For reference models from seven product groups, which largely cover the range of vehicles, lifecycle assessments were developed and tested by TÜV Rheinland. The methodology is based on ISO standards 14040 and 14044 and was reviewed and recertified in 2018.

It is clear across all product groups that most environmental impacts are caused while the trucks are in use. This is where the most energy is used, and so greenhouse gas emissions are also highest in this phase. In the case of electric trucks, the battery system also plays a key role. The production and maintenance of industrial trucks have almost an equal impact.

Rental and used trucks: Longer use periods reduce costs and conserve resources

Purchasing a pre-owned truck saves costs and conserves resources. For a number of years now, KION’s operating units have offered cost-effective equipment suitable for any application. In 2018, about one in five forklifts sold in the company’s Industrial Trucks & Services segment was an item of used equipment. Typically, these are former fleet trucks which were maintained under a maintenance agreement right from the outset according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. When they are returned, these trucks go through a standardised process to check them thoroughly and prepare them for reuse.

Once all the work is completed, a warranty is issued for each truck, which guarantees the quality and safety standard. Linde’s ‘Approved Trucks’ seal and STILL’s used-equipment classification in gold, silver or bronze make it clear that trucks meet this standard. As a result, the buyer purchases a reliable, high-performance truck – and makes a significant contribution to conserving resources by extending the truck’s service life.

Second life for used industrial trucks