AIKEN COUNTY, S.C.— Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire has unveiled an all-new “green-powered” lift truck fleet at its plant in Aiken County.
As part of a collaborative project between the tiremaker and the Economic Development Partnership of South Carolina, the plant will replace 23 lift trucks this year and 20 more in 2009 with hydrogen fuel-cell-powered lift trucks. Bridgestone will also install a hydrogen fuel pump across from the plant that will be used by employees of the tire plant as well as those at surrounding businesses.
The passenger and light truck tire plant began working with Plug Power on a prototype fuel-cell project in January 2007. The lift trucks are supplied by Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc.
Compared to battery-powered lift trucks, Bridgestone’s new hydrogen fuel-cell-powered lift trucks run two to three times as long and take one-fourth of the time to refuel, officials say. In addition to being environmentally friendly, hydrogen fuel cells improve safety by eliminating the hazards associated with changing heavy batteries, according to Bridgestone. The longer life of the fuel cell also reduces the number of times lift trucks need to be driven near pedestrian-occupied areas.
“We are very excited about this new green initiative,” says Mike Rose, plant manager. “This is a natural step for a technology-focused company like Bridgestone. Using this cutting-edge technology in a practical way helps our teammates and plant visitors get familiar with this clean, alternative energy. We’re proud to be among the first in the neighborhood to use this green, clean fuel in our material movers.”
“The use of alternative energy sources, like hydrogen fuel cells, is key to our state’s economic future,” adds Fred Humes, director of the Economic Development Partnership. “When a company like Bridgestone/Firestone makes a commitment to take the lead using alternative energy, it’s a true testament to its dedication to the environment and our community.” Humes is also the founding chairman of the board of directors for the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance.