United Natural Foods Installing Air Products’ Hydrogen Fueling Technology for 65 Fuel Cell Forklifts
United Natural Foods, Inc. is installing Air Products’ hydrogen fueling technology for the material handling market at its Sarasota, Florida distribution center. Air Products’ technology will fuel 65 fuel cell-powered lift trucks that will be mobilized at the distribution facility moving consumer goods on a daily basis.
The equipment for the 352,000 square-foot Sarasota facility, which serves as a regional distribution hub for customers in Southeastern United States, is targeted to be operational by the end of June 2010.
Air Products will supply the hydrogen as well as its compression, storage and two indoor hydrogen dispensing units. UNFI will add 29 new hydrogen fuel cell-powered lift trucks to its fleet and 36 existing lift trucks will be retrofitted to hydrogen fuel cell technology.
UNFI looked to this initiative to replace lead acid batteries and their associated charging equipment with hydrogen fuel cells as part of its culture of social responsibility and its commitment to using clean energy, as well as to improve efficiency, productivity and reliability.
By converting UNFI’s Sarasota lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cells, the company expects carbon emissions will be reduced by approximately 132 metric tons annually, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 automobiles.
There are several advantages to using hydrogen-powered forklifts and other material handling equipment, Air Products notes.
Hydrogen fuel cell-powered equipment needs refueling once or twice daily, depending on use. In contrast, traditional battery-powered equipment must be placed temporarily out of operation for battery replacement and required battery recharging approximately every four to six hours.
Hydrogen fuel cell-powered equipment provides consistent power strength during use and does not experience decreased performance or wear down as traditional lead-acid battery units do as they near a required battery change out or recharge time.
Hydrogen fuel cell forklifts are not adversely impacted by temperature or by operating in coolers and freezers, in comparison to traditional battery performance.
Hydrogen-powered fuel cell equipment eliminates lead-acid battery storage and disposal issues.
Air Products’ hydrogen fueling technology is currently being used to fuel more than 300 material handling vehicles including: fuel cell-powered pallet trucks at Wegmans Retail Service Center in Pottsville, Pa.; fuel cell-powered lift trucks at Central Grocers’ new distribution center in Joliet, Ill.; hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts at Nestlé Waters North America in Dallas, Tex.; hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts at the Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna Pennsylvania in New Cumberland, Pa.; as well as hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts at several other customers in the United States.