Sysco Houston Debuts Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology At New DC

Foodservice distributors' entire warehouse fleet, comprised of 72 pallet trucks and 26 forklifts, is utilizing Plug Power's GenDrive hydrogen fuel cell power units.

Houston: More than 100 business leaders and government representatives attended the official ribbon cutting yesterday for Sysco's new 585,000-square-foot food distribution facility in North Houston.

The company showcased its hydrogen fuel cell technology that powers its pallet trucks and forklifts.

Sysco Houston's entire warehouse fleet, comprised of 72 pallet trucks and 26 forklifts, utilizes Plug Power's GenDrive hydrogen fuel cell power units. Hydrogen fuel cells have a life of up to 10 years, considerably more than the average three to four years for incumbent batteries.

Additionally, as compared with lead-acid batteries, the fuel cell power sources extend the life of the trucks and deliver a steady source of power, significantly reducing the wear on lift truck motors.

Utilizing GenDrive hydrogen fuel cells also means that battery charging and changing equipment, as well as reserve batteries, are eliminated from operational costs. The power units are fueled by operators in as little as two minutes. At the same time, Sysco is no longer responsible for the disposal of toxic lead-acid batteries.

And, because hydrogen is a clean fuel, greenhouse gas emissions at the facility are significantly reduced. The only by-products generated by the material handling equipment are heat and water.

The facility also houses Air Products' hydrogen technology and fueling infrastructure that allows the company to receive liquid hydrogen fuel, convert it to a gaseous state, and then dispense it into the fuel cells through two hydrogen fuel pumps located in the new warehouse. The fueling dispensers are strategically located to optimize operator time and improve efficiency.

Yesterday's event included presentations by Sysco executives, the Department of Energy, and the Greenspoint District, as well as demonstrations of the technology by Sysco partners Plug Power and Air Products.

"Sysco is committed to energy and operational efficiency, and consistently strives to find a greener way of doing business," said Larry Pulliam, executive vice president, Foodservice Operations for Sysco. "We are proud to introduce our first installation without battery infrastructure for a pallet truck fleet, and hope that this may lead to further conversions at other facilities."

This cost-shared hydrogen fuel cell project includes a grant provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.