Hydrogen is a universal fuel that will play a major role in our clean, sustainable energy future. Here are some ways hydrogen is already becoming a practical reality in our everyday lives...
Wal-Mart Chooses Fuel Cell Forklifts
Most large retailer warehouses operate around-the-clock, and require forklifts that use huge amounts of energy to lift and move products. In the past, lead-acid batteries have provided the energy needed for indoor forklifts. But batteries require long recharge periods, hold less energy with each charge, and need to be replaced every 2-3 years. The hazardous materials in the batteries also make them costly to dispose of properly.
However, all of this is changing. In 2006, Wal-Mart completed a trial of Plug Power Inc.’s hydrogen fuel cell GenDrive forklifts in two of its distribution centers. As a result, retailers have begun to see a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly option for their warehouse needs.
Wal-Mart’s trial ran the GenDrive forklifts under actual working conditions for over four months, logging more than 18,000 hours and 2,100 indoor fuelings. These forklifts utilize an electric motor powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, rather than a traditional lead-acid battery. Typically, a battery forklift will swap out dead batteries for charged batteries several times a day. Each battery needs to be removed with a crane and recharged for several hours, requiring equipment, man-hours and extra storage for the charging batteries.
With the hydrogen fuel cell system, the forklift can be fueled at an indoor fueling station right in the warehouse in a matter of minutes, and its power won't decrease as the forklift uses the hydrogen. The fuel cell and small hydrogen tank is a direct replacement for a typical battery – all the other equipment remains the same. And, because the fuel cell contains no hazardous materials, disposal is safe and inexpensive.
| These forklifts also stand out from lead-acid battery trucks in terms of cost. They require less storage space for their fuel cell power units, are safer to handle and maintain, and are generally cheaper to operate today for large warehouses that operate around the clock.
The success of this trial led Wal-Mart to purchase Plug Power Inc.’s largest single order of GenDrive forklifts to date. By reducing energy and maintenance costs while minimizing waste and pollution, these forklifts can help to keep prices down for distributors. This helps keep prices down for the consumer as well.
Combining efficiency with cost-effective energy alternatives, Plug Power's forklifts will go into operation first at Wal-Mart’s distribution center in Washington Court House, Ohio.