Charging ahead

posted on 27th September 2023
Charging ahead

Michael K Nelson, president of the US-based Advanced Charging Technologies, Inc (ACT), explains how the forklift battery specialist is rapidly growing its footprint in the GSE market

Tell us about your expansion into the GSE market.

ACT launched its GSE product offering in late 2018 – and since then has deployed over 1,000 units throughout North America. Then, in 2022, we expanded outside North America into Oceania, Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East.
The eGSE [electric GSE] market historically has had limited options in charging batteries (both lead acid and lithium) and ACT’s unique offering, that has been widely adopted in the material handling market, is now solving multiple customer challenges in the GSE segment – especially when it comes to electrification.

And tell us a little about ACT, too.

ACT was founded in 2009 by Bob Istwan as CEO and who is now the CEO of the Motive Companies [Motive Companies has a mission to provide innovative, customised solutions that empower its partners to “take control over their energy needs and thrive”].
ACT’s headquarters are in Fountain Valley, California. It has engineering R&D Centers in Tustin in California and Oviedo in Florida, as well as a production facility in Fountain Valley and in San Antonio, Texas. It has 60 employees.

How much of your business is airport/GSE-related?

ACT was started with a focus on the MHE [material handling equipment] market. We looked at the GSE market in 2017 and quickly realised that the technology that is being deployed there from a charging perspective had not been improved on in over 15 years.
We decided that the time was right to deploy our platform in the GSE market, and our first GSE chargers were released in 2018. We were fortunate to land a sizable contract with a large air cargo operation, and have since spring-boarded into the GSE market.
We have been measured in our expansion, and as I said earlier, we’ve expanded globally.

ACT’s solutions fit several markets:

  • Replacing older, inefficient platforms
  • Sites that are looking to move into electric from internal combustion (IC). There is no ‘cookie cutter’ solution – ACT prides itself on meeting with stakeholders and tailoring the correct solution that can be built on in the future
  • Sites that are currently lead acid, and looking to move into lithium. ACT’s platform is chemistry agnostic – we can help our customers develop the strategy to move from lead acid to lithium

What sort of innovation does ACT bring to the GSE segment?

The eGSE market was dominated by a single player for 20 years, and there has was no update to their base technology. High-frequency charging advances yearly, so the inefficiency of using a 10-15-year-old charger is costing customers thousands of dollars a year just in utility costs. Add on our patented two-way communication, and we give stakeholders the ability to control how much power they use at any time of day.
In addition, airport authorities can track who is using the ‘pooled’ power, and accurately bill back their customers.

Are you investing in R&D for future innovation?

ACT launched its first-generation Quantum charger in 2016. We have since released our second-generation charger (in July 2019) and expect to release our third-generation solution in 2024. Again, we see a gain in efficiencies, deeper integration with lithium manufacturers, as well as helping our customers overcome limitations of electrifying their ramps (tying off with large-format energy storage systems).

Do you think that electric (or at least hybrid) is the likely future of GSE? Would there be alternatives in the longer term, such as hydrogen fuel cells?

We believe electric is both the short and long-term solution. Obviously, there will be locations globally that will never have the electrical infrastructure to support electrifying the entire fleet, and will likely remain IC.
As for hydrogen fuel cells, we have watched that technology in the MHE world, and I wouldn’t say the results have been glowing. Although we do see hydrogen as a viable solution for the long haul for road truck fleets – mainly due to the cost of infrastructure that can easily exceed the cost of electrical upgrades.

Do you have any plans for the coming months?

We’ll be exhibiting at the GSE Expo in Las Vegas in September. Big changes are coming for ACT at the GSE Expo.