Why Hydrogen Forklifts have a New Home with Amazon

The market for hydrogen fuel cell forklifts is booming despite the many myths and Amazon is not afraid to tap into it. The online retailer agreed to buy $70 million of fuel cell forklifts from Plug Power in April this year.

If you’re like most Amazon Prime customers, you may not care where your package lived before it arrived at your door, but the big picture…err, big warehouse is the reason why hydrogen-powered forklifts are a hit with Amazon: It all comes down to efficiency and total cost of ownership (TCO). A 2-3 minute fill time for a hydrogen truck vs 15-minute battery swap can add up to a lot a labor. For instance, a 100-truck fleet with one battery swap per shift totals over 20,000 operator hours per year.

Amazon isn’t the only big name retailer switching to hydrogen. In July, Walmart announced an extension to its deal with Plug Power to provide hydrogen fueling station and fuel cell solutions for up to 30 additional North American sites over the next three years. The value of this new contract is expected to be around $80 million.

Hydrogen FCEV manufacturers, like Honda, also operate Plug Power fuel cell forklifts, with 51 in use at its 4 million square feet factory in Marysville, Ohio. Mercedes‐Benz U.S. has more than 200 Plug Power fuel cell forklifts at Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Volkswagen operates 45 forklifts at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, manufacturing facility.

In trials of other MHVs (Material Handling Vehicles) the UK’s ITM Power reported “once charged with hydrogen the MHVs ran for as long as 18 hours between refills, compared with battery MHVs requiring a change-out between just 5 to 7 hours”. Operators reported higher levels of satisfaction with fuel cell fork lifts. With a hydrogen-powered machine, performance is like a fully-charged battery, 100% of the time. Battery forklifts begin to lose maximum power long before the battery is fully-discharged.

According to qz.com, Plug Power has struck two $600-million deals. One with Amazon for an 11-warehouse forklift fleet and another with Walmart for 10 warehouses.

Plug Power’s fuel cell forklifts:

  • do not require frequent replacements during operations.
  • operate in freezing temperatures.
  • have operational simplicity that ensures forklifts use fewer resources and people, leading to an overall savings for the company investing in hydrogen.
  • have minimal environmental impact because no exhaust fumes can be emitted

Forklifts & MHVs are driving hydrogen adoption and the technology can only continue to improve. Find out more about what this means for the future of transportation in our next article.

In the meantime, learn more about how you can invest in HyGen today.

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