If I asked you to tell me where the closest warehouse is to you could you do it? I bet you could!
In a world of growing e-commerce and logistical efficiencies, massive warehouses are being constructed around the country at record pace. These massive spaces have hundreds if not thousands of material handling equipment, such as forklifts, operating 24 hours a day. The age-old adage of “time is money” is essentially the motto for every logistical company in existence! Now if time is money, it only makes sense to minimize your downtime, thus minimizing costs. This explains why fuel cell material handling equipment is the pride and joy of warehouse managers worldwide. They give logistical companies the upper hand they need to deliver goods faster, while also maintaining a positive image of carbon neutral operations.
Fuel cell material handling equipment have a whole toolbox full of benefits over their battery electric counterparts. For starters, the power units operate at a consistent level throughout the shift, whereas battery electric forklifts encounter power sag as their charge is depleted. The refueling infrastructure needed for hydrogen fuel cells uses space more efficiently than battery charging stations. Battery charging stations require the rotation of multiple batteries and storing those currently charging in awkward storage racks. Hydrogen refueling stations allow companies to maximize their operational space while also keeping forklifts running longer. Refueling takes three minutes, whereas Toyota Material Handling states battery charging will take eight hours to charge and 8 hours to cool down before use. This saves forklifts operators valuable time, which saves the company money.
The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) has an entire community of members and lists numerous large-scale companies that have made the switch. Here are just a few you can find on their page:
Walmart’s Import Distribution Center in Mobile, Alabama utilizes hydrogen fuel cell forklifts powered by Plug Power. The 2.6 million square-foot facility opened in August 2018 and supplies more than 700 stores in the region. Since then, Walmart has added more than 2,000 fuel cell forklifts to their facilities across the country.
A portion of Walmart’s fleet of Plug Power forklifts. Source: Plug Power
BMW introduced 70 fuel cell forklifts to their manufacturing plant in Leipzig, Germany in 2018. Since then, they’ve added 275 more vehicles in operation to their South Carolina manufacturing plant, making them one of the largest fuel cell powered fleets in the U.S..
BMW’s fuel cell-powered forklift fleet and refueling station. Source: BMW
Port of Los Angeles
The Port of Los Angeles has utilized fuel cell equipment in their distribution centers and factories for some time now, however, a fuel cell container handler was added to their fleet in 2019. Demonstrating the viability of fuel cell equipment over their diesel internal combustion engine counterparts at the international ports of the U.S. will be a great proving ground for this technology.
In 2020, we’re all about sustainability, green energy consumption, carbon-neutrality, and efficient operations. As the world joins forces to control our energy usage, hydrogen fuel cells are the next big thing. Multi-billion-dollar corporations are looking towards fuel cell material handling fleets to maximize their operational space and minimize their operational costs.
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