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Fuel Cells

How Forklift Fuel Cells Could Change the Industry

Fuel cell

The technology may be new, but interest is growing in equipping forklifts with fuel cell technology to help businesses haul their loads more efficiently. Recent experiments have shown that fuel cell power offers several benefits to forklift operation, and around 4,000 fuel cell forklifts are being used in the United States. If you have not yet heard of this exciting development, here is a brief FAQ with the facts you need to know.

What Is Forklift Fuel Cell Technology?

Hydrogen fuel cells use a stack of small cells that combine oxygen and hydrogen to generate electricity with only water as the primary emission. While innovators have been attempting vehicle-based versions for years, compact commercial options are now being developed for forklifts. Since the cells function much like a battery (plus the required tank of hydrogen), they are relatively easy to equip on existing forklifts, and modern versions can provide all the power necessary for all forklift operations.

Who Is Using Fuel Cells in Forklifts?

So far, not many companies have used the fuel cell option, partly because the technology is so new in the forklift world. A notable experiment, where the Defense Depot of San Joaquin in California used fuel cell forklifts for a full 24 months, completed its first full year in May 2013 and produced a large amount of useful comparison information for companies. Commercial companies like Genco Supply Chain Solutions have also embarked on similar multi-year test phases to explore the benefits of these alternative forklifts. In most cases, fuel cell versions can be used anywhere that battery-operated forklifts are currently used today.

What Are the Advantages?

Battery-powered forklifts struggle with several issues that fuel cell options easily surmount. For example, batteries have a short range before they have to be taken over to an outlet to recharge and cool down. Their voltage can also vary, leading to lower power and a loss of ability as the battery drains. Fuel cells, on the other hand, can be refueled very quickly, offer much more constant voltage, and can help save on the space needed for previous battery chargers and battery storage.

What Is the Future for Forklift Fuel Cell Technology?

Fuel cell technology develops rapidly, making it difficult for providers to pick a fuel cell option and commercialize it when a better option may come along in several months. On the buyer side, fuel cell technology can save time and room in the warehouse when used, but it can be expensive to purchase and install. Until forklift companies find ways around these challenges, fuel cell power should remain a niche market for the industry.