Mhlnews 1245 Raymond Fuel Cell Lift Trucks 200

United Natural Foods converts lift trucks to fuel cells

July 19, 2010
United Natural Foods, Inc., a leading independent national distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods in the United States and Canada, is the first organization to use The Raymond Corp.’s new hydrogen fuel cell-compatible orderpicker.  It’s part of a UNFI initiative to transform its Sarasota, Fla., distribution facility’s lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cell power. The goals for this conversion include eliminating time for battery charging, changing and maintenance, as well as enhancing its sustainability goals.

The orderpicker features a specially-built 21-inch battery box to accommodate a hydrogen fuel cell. “Today, fuel cells are used as battery replacements in lift trucks and, therefore, must meet size compatibility standards,” says Frank Devlin, segment manager for Raymond. “There are some extra challenges in engineering a fuel cell-compatible orderpicker due to the existing battery compartment size, so Raymond redesigned the battery compartment of its Model 5500 orderpicker to enable UNFI to convert its entire fleet to hydrogen power.”

“By converting UNFI’s Sarasota lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cells, we expect carbon emissions will be reduced by approximately 132 metric tons annually, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 automobiles,” said Lisa Madsen, director of sustainability & social responsibility at UNFI.

The 352,000-square-foot Sarasota facility, which employs approximately 160 associates, is using six fuel-cell-powered orderpickers. Other fuel-cell lift trucks include Model 7400 Reach-Fork trucks, Model 4200 stand-up counterbalanced trucks and Model 8400 pallet trucks — all powered by Plug Power’s GenDrive fuel cell units. Teaming with Raymond to supply and service this fleet are its authorized Sales and Service Centers Abel Womack, Lawrence, Mass., and Raymond Handling Consultants, Lakeland, Fla.