Hydrogen powers-up the material handling sector in Europe

The largest deployment of hydrogen-powered fuel cell materials handling vehicles in Europe took place on 22 November 2018 in the framework of the HyLIFT-EUROPE project. 

Carrefour, one of the largest European retailers, has inaugurated the operation of a fleet of 137 hydrogen-powered fuel cell materials handling vehicles in its warehouse located in France, at Vendin Le Viel. The largest deployment of this type of vehicles in Europe is the result of the collaboration between Carrefour and the companies Air Liquide - that developed the hydrogen refuelling station - and STILL, the manufacturer of the fuel cell vehicles, in the framework of the HyLIFT-EUROPE project, which is co-funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).

The HyLIFT-EUROPE project paves the way for a self-sustaining market for hydrogen powered fuel cell materials handling vehicles in Europe by increasing the volumes of vehicles in operation. The project has the ambitious goal of deploying two fleets of fuel cell materials handling vehicles, counting more than 200 vehicles in total. The fleet in Carrefour is the largest one developed in this context; a second fleet of 75 fuel cell vehicles was deployed already in 2016 at Prelocentre, a logistics provider for fruits and vegetables.

Fuel cells bring advantages for the material handling sector: the hydrogen powered material handling vehicles are efficient and reliable; they can be rapidly refueled in less than 3 minutes, boosting productivity by eliminating the time associated with battery changing and charging; they generate only water and heat with no local pollutants allowing indoor operations.

Olivier Danneels – North France warehouses Director, Carrefour Supply Chain, remarked: “We can say today that hydrogen doesn't only answer to environmental requirements but allows a better operational efficiency (performances, agility, working conditions). The use during the next months must confirm this.”

Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of FCH JU, said in turn: “The Carrefour site in Vendin Le Vieil will be looked at by others who will want to assess the technology and the business model, therefore it is a very important example for the future expansion of fuel cell application in the logistics sector in Europe”

Björn Grünke - Product Manager Energy Systems, STILL:“The Carrefour project with 137 trucks has proved, that fuel cell technology works in intralogistics. We are excited to observe the further developing of the fleet and are looking forward to the competition of energy technologies for the future”