Blog: Kroger Sustainability Program Finds Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology Is Robust, Reliable, SAFE

Kroger Sustainability Program Finds Hydrogen Fuel Cell  Technology Is Robust, Reliable, SAFE

June 13, 2014

When Kip Selby, Senior Project Manager for Kroger in Louisville, KY, was asked recently to speak about the company’s sustainability program, he opted to discuss their testing and adoption of hydrogen fuel cells to power the material handing fleets in several distribution warehouses.

Kip emphasized Kroger’s satisfaction with the initial deployments of Plug Power’s sustainable, efficiency-improving fuel cell solutions. He also talked about Kroger’s subsequent plans to further reduce operating costs and shrink their carbon footprint, by bringing GenDrive to even more distribution centers going forward.

Delaware, OH, Pilot Site

It all started back in 2010, when Kroger conducted a six-month pilot program in Delaware, Ohio (near Columbus), where Plug Power GenDrive units were installed in six pallet jacks and one lift truck. A mobile hydrogen plant and a single fuel dispenser were provided for re-fueling purposes.

The fuel cell-powered vehicles were tested in all temperature zones – since they are driven both outside where daytime temperatures can be very hot, and inside where cold-storage temperatures can be extremely chilly.

The Delaware pilot test results were highly successful – Kroger found that Plug Power’s GenDrive hydrogen fuel cell technology proved to be robust, reliable, and safe.

Compton, CA Deployment

Kroger responded to these results by ordering a full-scale implementation at its Compton, CA distribution center, which supplies groceries for Ralphs markets. A total of 174 GenDrive units replaced the lead-acid batteries in class 1, 2, and 3 lift and reach trucks, and three hydrogen fill stations were installed within the facility for re-fueling.

Achievements: Great ROI, Operating Efficiency, Sustainability

Despite a demanding environment that required new procedures and the need for adjustments related to maintenance software and other minor issues, the Compton site has experienced decreasing maintenance costs and a return on investment (ROI) of approximately 20% to-date.

The Compton location has also found that the fuel cells run 1.5 times longer than lead-acid batteries (2 times longer for Class 3 vehicles) and that fuel cells allow lift trucks to operate at consistent speed and power at all times (battery droop is no longer an issue). In addition, re-fueling takes only 1-4 minutes, rather than the 10-20 minutes required to change a battery.

And since fuel cells emit only a small amount of heat and water, the forklift-generated carbon footprint (pollution) at the site is virtually eliminated, thereby meeting Kroger’s goal of achieving sustainability in its operations.

More GenDrive Fuel Cells in 2014+

Success and satisfaction with the Compton implementation have led Kroger to order GenDrive fuel cell deployments at distribution centers in Stapleton, CO and Louisville, KY for 2014. In fact, Kroger became Plug Power’s first GenKey customer in 2014, ordering GenDrive fuel cell units, GenFuel hydrogen and fueling infrastructure and GenCare support. The company is also planning to roll out the fuel cells at additional facilities in 2015 and beyond.