Hydrogen fuel embraced by United Natural FoodsFebruary 9, 2013
Hydrogen fuel wins more support from largest organic food company in the US
United Natural Foods, the largest wholesale distributor of organic and specialty foods in the U.S., has begun embracing hydrogen fuel cells. Like other companies in its industry, United Natural Foods boasts of an expansive materials handling division, which is primarily comprised of forklift trucks. For the past several decades, these vehicles have been powered by lead-acid batteries. United Natural Foods has begun seeing promise the use of fuel cells, however, and has begun taking hydrogen fuel more seriously.
Materials handling becomes a popular target for the fuel cell industry
Hydrogen fuel is gaining strong traction in the materials handling space. Fuel cell manufacturers have, for the past year or so, begun to focus more heavily on this sector due to poor performance in other areas. Because most materials handling vehicles are powered by electricity, they are prime candidates for hydrogen fuel cells, which produce electrical power through the consumption of hydrogen gas. United Natural Foods expects that the adoption of hydrogen fuel will align with its own environmental endeavors, while also helping the company save some money on energy costs.
United Natural Foods begins expanding use of hydrogen fuel
United Natural Foods’ distribution facility in Sarasota, Florida, already had a fleet of hydrogen-powered forklift trucks in service. These were introduced in 2005, as the company began to look more closely at alternative energy. The trucks were in operation before the facility officially opened in 2007 and the facility has served as a hub for the company’s forklift truck conversion ever since. The Sarasota facility boasts of its own hydrogen fuel infrastructure, producing on-site fuel for the trucks to use.
Productivity increases thanks to fuel cells
Since embracing hydrogen fuel, United Natural Foods has seen major improvements in labor and productivity. The company expects productivity to continue to increase into the future as it begins introducing its hydrogen-powered forklift trucks throughout the rest of its network in the U.S. The introduction of these vehicles will be done slowly so as to allow the company to evaluate its return on its investment.