Whole Foods DC to use fuel-cell units to power lift trucks

New York City Whole Foods Market will use 61 fuel-cell-powered forklifts throughout its distribution center in Landover, Md., beginning in 2010.

The chain is partnering with Plug Power, provider of the GenDrive fuel cells, and Genco Supply Chain Solutions, to complete this installation. The funding for the fuel cells is part of a $6.1 million award made to Genco in April by the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the Stimulus Act.

Alliance Material Handling, a Maryland-based Crown lift truck supplier, will supply the forklifts for this site. The fleet will consist of 45 class-3 pallet jack and 16 class-2 standup reach trucks, all powered by GenDrive fuel cells.

The decision to move from lead-acid batteries was facilitated by the opportunity to improve the company's productivity in their Maryland operations, while also achieving environmental and economic benefits. The fuel-cell units reduce their carbon footprint by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the use and charging of lead-acid batteries used in material handling equipment. Conversion to GenDrive fuel-cell power units can reduce material-handling greenhouse gas emissions up to 80%, said Plug Power.

“Whole Foods Market is committed to healthy food and a healthy planet. We are fulfilling that commitment by choosing to use greener technology in our own operations that will improve our productivity and lower our long-term costs,” said Joe Strong, facility team leader at Whole Foods, in a statement.

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