Trends in Fuel Cell-Powered Lift Trucks

Dec 09, 2011 For two decades the lift truck industry has been working with fuel cell manufacturers to develop fuel cell-powered material handling vehicles.  After successful demonstration programs in the late 1990s, there are now over 3,000 fuel cell powered lift trucks deployed in North America, many at nationally recognized companies.  Fuel cell-powered lift trucks now comprise nearly two percent of annual sales of electric forklifts. Lift truck manufacturers’ view of the state of fuel cell technology has changed as the two industries have worked closely together.  The Industrial Truck Association, a trade association that represents manufacturers of lift trucks and their suppliers, conducts an annual business trends survey.  From the survey it appears that the lift truck industry has improved its understanding of the basics of fuel cell technology, and how fuel cells can be used as a dynamic part of the lift truck industry. Between 2004 and 2010 the survey has shown:
  • A growing sophistication in the understanding of fuel cell technology within the lift truck industry.
  • A growing confidence in the industry that fuel cell-powered forklifts will be commercially available in the short term, and that they will achieve a significant market share relatively quickly.
  • A belief that when fuel cell systems become commercially available, they will be price competitive with battery systems.
  • An understanding that price and hydrogen sourcing will be the largest hurdles.
Fuel cell-forklifts continue to win over new customers in grocery sector:
  • Kroger recently purchasing 161 systems, joining Whole Foods, Wegmans, WinCo Foods and Central Grocers.
  • Sysco has purchased nearly 500 additional fuel cell-powered forklifts for four warehouses in 2011 after a successful purchase of nearly 200 units in 2010.
  • Baldor Specialty Foods just announced the purchase of 50 methanol fuel cells for forklifts from Oorja Protonics.
Additionally, Proctor & Gamble announced this week they have purchased 200 fuel cells for forklifts from Plug Power for manufacturing facilities in California, Louisiana, and North Carolina For comprehensive charts on fuel cell-powered material handling vehicles visit http://www.fuelcells.org/info/charts/forklifts.pdf. To keep tabs on the fuel cell industry, subscribe to our free monthly Fuel Cell Technology Update at http://www.fuelcells.org/news/updates.html.

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