The green grocery store, Whole Foods Markets, which started operations in Austin, Texas in 1980 has decided to pilot a set of hydrogen fuel cell forklifts at one of their distribution centers in Maryland.
Now, I’ve talked about forklifts for grocers before such as H-E-B Corporation and Wegmans Food Markets. Whole Foods going with hydrogen forklifts makes even more sense since they promote themselves as a “natural food market” and according to their website, “We search for the highest quality, least processed, most flavorful and natural foods possible because we believe that food in its purest state — unadulterated by artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings and preservatives — is the best tasting and most nutritious food there is.”
So, it makes sense that a green grocers such as Whole Foods would want to go with zero emission forklifts since this represents the values that the company tries to promote. But, going with hydrogen fuel cell forklifts has also made economic sense because of a grant from the Department of Energy to forklift maker GENCO, which made the fuel cell forklifts cheaper than those powered by lead-acid batteries.
And there is another economic incentive as well and that is in regard to man-hours spent servicing hydrogen forklifts compared to those equipped with lead-acid batteries. Joe Strong from Whole Foods estimates the workforce will spend 250 hours a year refueling and servicing hydrogen forklifts and knows from past experience that the same crew typically spends around 4,000 man hours a years swapping batteries and servicing lead-acid battery forklifts.
By switching to fuel cell forklifts the company expects to save at least 80-percent in emissions. There is a video worth seeing that shows the hydrogen forklifts being refueled at the Whole Foods distribution center.