Design Challenge - Advanced Lift-truck Technology International 2013

Gokul Venkatesh Chagantipati - Compact truck with rotating fuel cell

Electromagnetic Suspension

Once just a simple load carrier with little mechanisation, the forklift is now a complete gadget-equipped vehicle. The Tulsi Concept 360 focuses on the latest evolution in forklift design – the addition of compact yet powerful fuel cells, which are currently predominantly fitted into a lift-truck’s existing architecture. Fuel cells are highly efficient and easily refilled in no time – while lead-acid batteries need to be charged for long periods and lose efficiency during discharge. However, because fuel cells are small and relatively light, this must be compensated for with a sufficiently heavy counterweight, which reduces their efficiency to some extent.

Replacing lead-acid batteries would free up considerable space – which raises the idea of decreasing the size of the forklift itself, ideally without affecting the available space. Concept 360 solves this problem, achieving a 50% reduction in battery weight and 25% reduction in overall vehicle volume while still providing an ergonomic workspace. With a load capacity of 2,000kg and an overall length of 2.4m, the Concept 360 is just 1.35m long up to the fork face – about 70% of the size of a lead-acid model of the same lift capacity. Its overall width would be well within 1m, or about 90% of the traditional lift-truck’s dimensions. To achieve these figures, Concept 360 uses the space that is freed up to intelligently vary the centre of mass (COM) of the fuel cell with respect to the front axle. It employs a rotating cell console that is only partly filled with the fuel cell while the rest remains hollow.

An intelligent tilt sensor detects changes in inclination and adjusts the position of the COM within the console. Whenever there is a tilt in the truck resulting from a load at the front, the tilt sensor varies the rotation of the cell console, increasing the distance between front wheelbase and COM of the cell console. As force is directly proportional to distance, the load at the front can be increased as the cell console rotates to increase the distance. Using this property, Concept 360 can vary the distance between the front axle and the COM of the console by a factor of two in order to use the fuel cell to provide an intelligent counterweight. 

The use of futuristic fuel cells and modern technology has provided room to furnish the forklift with a contemporary and novel appearance. Rotation of the fuel cell console can even be observed by a bystander, which adds to the aesthetic appeal of this design.


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Gokul is an industrial designer at TAFE, India, and holds a Master’s in Industrial Design from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati


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