United Natural Foods Adopts Fuel-Cell-Powered Lift Truck Fleet

March 18, 2010
United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) plans to adopt hydrogen fuel-cell technology to power the lift truck fleet at its distribution center (DC) in Sarasota, Fla.

By June 2010, the retail grocery distributor will begin operating 65 GenDrive fuel-cell-powered lift trucks in its 352,000-square foot Sarasota DC. The company plans to add 29 new lift trucks and retrofit 36 trucks to operate on fuel-cell power.

UNFI is partnering with Plug Power Inc., Air Products and Chemicals Inc. and Abel Womack Inc. on the rollout, which will replace the lead-acid batteries and associated charging equipment with hydrogen fuel cells. According to UNFI, the switch to fuel cells will reduce the DC’s carbon emissions by approximately 132 metric tons annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 automobiles.

“Hydrogen fuel cells not only provide greater productivity and lower operating costs but will be an important component of a clean energy future, and we are happy to be pioneering the use of this technology in Florida,” says Tom Dziki, senior vice president of sustainable development. “Once implemented, this fuel-cell project is expected to create annual energy savings of approximately 640,000 kilowatt hours."