Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Forklifts

Plug Power GenDrive Hydrogen fuel cells are used to replace old style Lithium-ion lead acid forklift batteries in all major forklift brands including Raymond, Crown, Caterpillar and Toyota. They fit seamlessly into 6 major lift truck styles: sit down forklifts, stand up reach trucks, high level order pickers, counter balance trucks, rider pallet jacks and tuggers.

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Hydrogen fuel cell forklifts solve specific problems and provide bottom line benefits!

We are very excited about Plug Power’s tremendous growth in providing hydrogen fuel cell forklifts. Over the years a market has been created where there was none. Today there are over 16,000 units at over 110 locations all across the United States. The technology continues to evolve allowing them to become more efficient while at the same time bringing the cost down.

Hydrogen fuel cells are not for everyone. For starters, let’s decide if you are a good candidate for hydrogen forklifts. The value proposition amounts to three things that will either make or break the feasibility of this hydrogen conversion.
1. What is the size of your fleet? If you have over 35, preferably 50-100-150 forklifts you are a good candidate for hydrogen fuel cell forklifts.
2. How much energy (batteries) consumed in day? How many batteries do you charge in a day and how many times a day do you charge them? How much motive power energy the fleet consumes per day dictates how many times you have to change a battery because a battery has a finite amount of energy and requires to be taken out and recharged once it reaches 20% state of charge. The more changes, the more operator unproductive time an end user has to deal with.
3. How many shifts do you run a day? How many days a week do you operate? To make this investment worthwhile you need to run 2-1/2 to 3 shifts a day, 6-7 days a week. This primarily is directed at a competing technology, fast charge. Fast charge delivers the same benefits by eliminating battery changing, but requires time during a workday to recharge a battery to 100% so that it is ready for the operator the following day. Essentially hydrogen forklifts allow you to run 24/7 at a close to 100% fleet utilization.

A Midwest Operations Facility Manager recently told us that the costs to add hydrogen fuel cell technology was too great and that you could only see significant savings if you were located on the East or West Coast. That is partially true. The savings is greater and ROI much quicker for companies located in areas with higher land costs BUT the technology has evolved recently so that there is great savings for ALL operators of large forklift fleets.

The good news is that by working with Plug Power you are working directly with the factory and their engineers to insure that you receive a hydrogen fuel cell forklift system designed for your specific needs. Hydrogen forklifts are a very specialized product and you only want to work with a company that can provide a complete turnkey solution.

The retrofit of hydrogen fuel cells requires more work on the outside of your warehouse than it does on the inside. The majority of the work is done on the outside of the building adding the hydrogen infrastructure required to support the fueling stations inside you’re warehouse. A typical distribution center may require 2-6 hydrogen refueling stations inside your warehouse but some of the larger automotive plants have up to 17 dispensing stations.

If you are a customer that is building a new warehouse now is a great time to consider Hydrogen fuel cells to power your forklifts. You would be amazed at how much it costs to run electric lines for battery rooms and charging stations. That expense will go a long way to paying for hydrogen infrastructure required to power hydrogen fueling stations.

The biggest challenge to converting to hydrogen fuel cells to power your forklifts is the cost associated with hydrogen infrastructure that is required. Plug Power’s two biggest customers are Walmart & Amazon. They run hydrogen forklifts throughout the majority of their distribution centers. These are often capital intensive projects for 100-125 truck conversions that consist of a blend of different kinds of lift trucks.

85% of the hydrogen fuel cells sold are designed for these 5 styles of lift trucks:
1. Stand Up Reach Trucks
2. High Level Order Pickers
3. Counter Balance Trucks
4. Rider Pallet Jacks / Ride On Pallet Trucks
5. Tuggers

3 different hydrogen fuel cell forklift solutions:
1. Series 1000: Sit down forklifts
2. Series 2000: Stand up Reach Trucks , Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) and Narrow aisle forklifts
3. Series 3000: Ride-on Pallet Trucks (which include single, double and triple length pallet jacks) & Tuggers

*There may be different designations with the 3 series which are for the different sizes, rates and power required. But for the most part the power cell battery size is common for different brands like Raymond, Crown, Caterpillar and Toyota. Although sometimes there are different cables or software but usually they use the same battery. The battery strength is determined by how high the truck is lifting. The size of the battery is determined by the size of the battery department on the forklift.

Disadvantages to the old traditional lithium-ion lead acid batteries:
• Charging and changing of batteries = lots of unproductive time. The average time it takes to charge your old Lithium forklift battery is 15 minutes. If you have 100 trucks and they are charged 3 times a day at 15 minutes per charge that could equal hundreds of thousands of dollars a year wasted on charging batteries.
• Old forklift batteries generate acid residue which creates environmental contamination. That may be ok if you operate in a brownfield site. But if you want to operate in a Greenfield site you will need to convert your forklift batteries to hydrogen power cells.
• Cost of infrastructure to supply electrical lines to support battery charging stations is tremendous. If you are building a new warehouse you want to think long and hard if these funds are not better spent on Hydrogen infrastructure required for fuel cells.
• The amount of wasted space given up to battery rooms and charging stations. This can amount to 3,000 square foot of space that could be used for more profitable purposes. In comparison hydrogen charging stations take up approximately 80 square feet.

Advantages to Hydrogen Fuel Cell Forklifts:
• Zero emissions. Clean power source that leaves behind only water. No degradation as battery discharges.
• Increase productivity and lower operating costs. They offer constant, long lasting power.
• Don’t have to charge or change them as frequently as traditional lithium-ion batteries.
• Saves time – Fast hydrogen fueling in 2 minutes vs. 15 minutes charging on old Lithium-ion batteries.
• More Space – Eliminates battery room and space dedicated to chargers. Hydrogen charging station is 20 Square foot vs. 3000 Square foot required for traditional changing stations. Convert this space to something more profitable.
• Driver fills their own trucks. Hydrogen forklifts fill up at hydrogen dispensing stations.

Gendrive Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology is a smarter power option for material handling. Hydrogen forklifts offer efficiency that never stops – just like your business!