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Prelocentre, a French logistics service company with facilities in La Saussave, St. Cyrenval,
France that markets fruits and vegetables, is said to be the first company in Europe to have an all-hydrogen fleet of trucks and order pickers.
The company had an initial fleet of 35 Jungheinrich units, but recently expanded to 46. Next year the company is expecting to expand the fleet up to 60 units.
Air Liquide, a multinational company that supplies industrial gases and based in Paris, France, is providing the hydrogen, which is stored outside at a pressure of 450 bars. A pump has been installed in the warehouse so trucks can refuel on the go.
A benefit of the technology is quicker refueling time. A lift needs to visit the pump only for about two to three minutes and can drive away with eight hours of operating time. There is no need for batteries, chargers, or separate charging rooms. The fact that Prelocentre does not need a charging room saves it about 400-square meters in space and $337,000-$450,000 (€300,000 to €400,000) in equipment costs.
The warehouse operates at a temperature of 10° C and 10% of the building endures a chilly 4° C because produce is stored there. The hydrogen fuel cells in the lifts and the fueling stations are not affected by the cold.
The cost of the fuel cell is equivalent to or even lower than that of a lead acid battery. Life expectancy of the cell is about 10 years compared to five to six years for the battery.
HYpulsion has partnered with Axane, a subsidiary of Air Liquide, and Plug Power, which is supplying its GenDrive ‘drop-in’ fuel cells, which have replaced the lead acid batteries that had previously powered the forklifts.
Plug Power combines the GenDrive fuel cell system with GenFuel, a turnkey hydrogen fueling solution. A Lift truck operator drives the GenDrive-powered lift truck to a GenFuel station, which is on-site at the warehouse, and fuels up the lift in just a few minutes.
A year and a half ago, Jungheinrich tested the use of hydrogen fuel cells in its electric EFG 216 truck and its horizontal ECE 220 order picker. The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, a public/private group that works under the control of the European HyLIFT-Europe project, which demonstrates the viability of fuel cell applications in warehousing and airports, co-financed the project.
It is reported that Prelocentre received $160,000 (€150,000) in subsidies to help finance the shift from batteries to hydrogen.