United Natural Foods Goes Green With Raymond Fuel Cell-Powered Lift Trucks

By converting its fleet to hydrogen fuel cells, UNFI expects carbon emissions will be reduced by about 132 metric tons annually.

Greene, NY: The Raymond Corp. has engineered the first hydrogen fuel cell-compatible orderpicker, which features a specially-built 21-inch battery box to easily accommodate a hydrogen fuel cell.

United Natural Foods Inc., an independent national distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods and related products in the United States and Canada, is the first organization to install the new orderpicker as part of an initiative to transform its Sarasota, FL, distribution facility lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cell-powered trucks.

In addition to eliminating time for battery charging, changing and maintenance, Providence, RI-based UNFI anticipates the use of fuel cells will be a key component in enhancing sustainability goals.

“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.”

“This project extends our commitment to create an environmentally and socially responsible environment in all the communities we serve,” comments Lisa Madsen, director of sustainability and social responsibility at UNFI. “Hydrogen fuel cells not only provide greater productivity, but 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.”

Raymond; authorized Sales and Service Centers Abel Womack, Lawrence, MA; and Raymond Handling Consultants, Lakeland, FL; and Plug Power Inc., Latham, NY, helped convert UNFI’s entire lift truck fleet in Sarasota, Fla., from being battery-powered to a completely fuel cell-compatible operation. UNFI’s Sarasota fleet includes six new Raymond Model 5500 fuel cell-compatible orderpickers, as well as fuel cell-powered 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. The 352,000-square-foot Sarasota facility, which employs approximately 160 associates, serves as a regional distribution hub for customers in the southeastern United States.
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