Forklifts have been a major feature in warehouses across the world for years, and while they may have some differences, they all had one thing in common: some form of fossil fuel powered them.
However, in today’s world of green energy, many companies are under pressure from consumers to become as environmentally friendly as possible, and that means becoming less dependent on fossil fuels.
The Coca-Cola Company (Coke), one of the world’s leading soft drink manufacturers, is leading the charge. They have been working to replace their fleet of forklifts with ones powered by electricity since 2011. The first warehouse to be fitted with these green vehicles was the distribution center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
An Innovative Idea
The reason this move is considered so innovative is because it meant not only purchasing forklifts that ran on these special power cells, but also purchasing the recharging stations for each warehouse. This added up to a very large investment.
But, Coke is already seeing some rewards. Warehouse productivity has actually increased while the company’s carbon footprint and its operating costs have dropped. Plus, the fact that the energy is so much cheaper, the company will be able to make the investment pay off in the long term.
How they Work
These forklifts run off of a hydrogen fueling system. The fuel cells are powered by a reaction that takes place between the hydrogen and oxygen. These fuel cells let electric forklifts continue to operate at full power until the cells are empty.
When one of the electric batteries needs recharged, all the operator has to do is drive it to a wall-mounted refueling station. Within just a few minutes, the forklift is fully powered.
Traditional batteries, on the other hand, often see a drop in performance as the power in the battery drains, and the battery needs to be switched out, which can take a lot of time.
Cost and Performance
The cost of one of these hydrogen-powered forklifts is actually much less than many people think. Their cost ranges from around $12,000 to about $28,000 depending on the model and its abilities.
Coca-Cola’s use of these forklifts has actually resulted in an increased performance due to the fact that they operate in exactly the same ways as traditional forklifts but take less time to refuel. They do not require any special forklift ramps or other warehouse changes, so the only additional requirement is the refueling station.
Others Following in Coke’s Footsteps
While it was once one of only a few businesses using this type of green energy, in the short span of time since Coke began adding electric forklifts to its warehouses, a number of other businesses have followed suit.
Today, many companies make use of these vehicles, including Wal-Mart, CVS, FedEx, and Kroger. All of these businesses have seen that going green doesn’t always mean spending extra money. In fact, in the long run, going green often saves businesses money.
Coke’s innovative use of electric forklifts as its new standard business model for warehouses has certainly done that.