- In its new distribution center in Vendin-le-Vieil, France, Carrefour deployed 137 new hydrogen fuel-cell powered electric forklifts, adding to the company's existing fleet of 80 fuel-cell powered lift trucks.
- Carrefour's fleet is the largest number of hydrogen forklifts in use in a single facility in Europe, according to Air Liquide, the hydrogen charging station supplier. The lift trucks will work two to three shifts in the distribution center for Carrefour, the second largest retailer in the world.
- Carrefour installed an outdoor hydrogen storage station and three indoor distribution stations to support the fuel-cell fleet. The fuel cells can be recharged with hydrogen in three to four minutes compared to 15 minutes to change a battery. The only emission from a fuel cell vehicle is water vapor.
Hydrogen fuel cells are gaining ground as companies seek low-emission, high-efficiency options for warehouse operations. More than 20,000 fuel-cell forklifts are in service in North America and about 300 in Europe, according to Air Liquide. In the U.S., operators include Coca-Cola, WinCo Foods and Central Grocers.
Also, Air Liquide announced Nov. 26 it will build a world-scale liquid hydrogen plant in the western U.S. to supply hydrogen to retail hydrogen fueling stations operated by FirstElement Fuel Inc.
The plant, which is expected to start construction in early 2019, will produce about 30 tons of hydrogen per day, enough to fuel 35,000 fuel cell electric vehicles. The plant will support the 40,000 fuel cell vehicles that are expected to be in use in California by 2022. The hydrogen will also be used to fuel material handling equipment and heavy-duty trucks.
Converting to hydrogen fuel cell power can recover 234 hours of lost productivity by saving 13 minutes for a battery change per shift per forklift in three-shift operation, according to Plug Power, maker of the GenDrive fuel cells.
Plug Power says its GenDrive fuel cells are a drop-in substitute power source for electric lift trucks from major manufacturers. The company offers three different configurations that work with more than 80 different vehicles.
Battery-powered lift trucks lose about 14% of their speed over the last half of the battery charge, reducing productivity. In comparison, fuel cells provide 100% power until the hydrogen in the tank is depleted. A hydrogen fueling station is much smaller than the typical battery recharging room, which frees up floor space for warehouse operations.