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P&G Shifts 200 Forklifts to Hydrogen Fuel Cell Power

Procter & Gamble, owner of the Tide, Pampers and Gillette brands, will convert its battery-operated forklift fleets at three facilities to ones powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

New York-based Plug Power, which has Walmart, Sysco and Coca-Cola as customers, will supply the technology. P&G’s manufacturing facilities in California, North Carolina and Louisiana will be the first three sites to use the hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts. More than 200 forklifts will have their batteries replaced with hydrogen fuel cells. Other sites are being studied for future conversions, P&G said.

Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity without combustion, and as a result, produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel cells allow the forklift trucks to maintain their power over an entire shift.

Fuel cell-powered forklifts also are faster to refuel and require less maintenance than conventional battery-powered units, P&G said. A forklift can be fueled with high-pressure hydrogen gas in about two minutes.

Fuel cell forklifts are expected to increase productivity, while helping the company reach sustainability goals, said Stefano Zenezini, vice president of P&G’s global family care product supply and global product supply sustainability division.

Hydrogen vehicles, including fuel cell and fuel cell plug-in hybrids, could hit a market share between 30 and 70 percent in 2050, according to preliminary results of an Oak Ridge National Laboratory study, Green Car Congress reports. The percentage of market share will largely depend on whether hydrogen vehicle technology can be developed enough to lower costs, study author David Greene said.

Some automakers, including Toyota, Honda and Mercedes-Benz, are already moving ahead with plans for hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles. General Motors also has said it could move forward with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as early as 2016, Slate reported. However, the company said the roll-out will hinge on the launch of infrastructure, such as new refueling stations.

As automakers pursue hydrogen fuel cell-power vehicles, the White House appears to be softening its view on the technology, Slate reported.

The Obama Administration had abandoned former President George W. Bush’s hydrogen fuel cell program and instead placed its bet on lithium-ion battery technology. But more recently, energy secretary Steven Chu has reportedly made supportive remarks about the potential of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Picture credit: Fuel cell-powered forklifts from Plug Power

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