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Benefits of Hydrogen Fuel Cell-Powered Forklifts

Filed under: Industry Trends

Research and development in the materials handling industry has led to hydrogen powered forklifts becoming a reality. There is now a strong trend with purchasers moving away from the traditional LPG, diesel and battery electric units to the more environmentally friendly and cost effective hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

This blog will explore the many advantages and few disadvantages of hydrogen power forklifts.


1. Increased Productivity – Less Downtime

Current battery electric forklifts require batteries to be changed once they run out of power; this change can take up to 30 minutes each time it is required depending on the battery size and recharging station setup. In a full days operation, depending on the size of the batteries used and how heavy the workload is there could be multiple periods of downtime due to battery changes.

Hydrogen powered forklifts can be fully fuelled in under 5 minutes in the same fashion as internal combustion forklifts, overall reducing downtime and increasing productivity.
increased productivity, less downtime

2. Low Input Costs

The price of natural gas which hydrogen fuel is derived from is currently at record lows. Lower prices and increased availability means hydrogen powered forklifts are becoming a viable option for more fleets.

3. Smaller Equipment Footprint

Depending on the size of the forklift fleet, a large battery room may need to be operated to keep enough batteries charged to allow continuous operation. Due to the large and complex equipment needed to charge batteries on a large scale, battery rooms often occupy large amounts of floor space in warehouses. The rooms must be located in close proximity to the work floor to ensure forklifts are able to make it back to have their battery changed before it runs empty. The negative by product of having to have a large battery room powering a fleet is that less floor space is available for the storage of stock.

Hydrogen systems require a compact hydrogen generator indoors and additional equipment that can be stored outside, thus providing a smaller footprint and allowing warehouse floor space to be reclaimed for the purpose of storing additional stock.

smaller equipment footprint

4. Constant Power Supply

Battery powered forklifts experience a drop in performance during the last half an hour of operation. In contrast hydrogen fuel cells experience no drops in performance across an entire shift. Hydrogen fuel cells offer sustained performance and also improve component longevity and motor wear and tear.

5. Lower Environmental Impacts

Hydrogen fuel cells produce zero harmful emissions, as the only by products are water vapour and heat. Companies who adopted hydrogen fuel cells can see a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This reduction may be critical for socially responsible companies.

reduced envionmental impacts

6. Reduced Disposal and Renewal Costs and Impacts

As opposed to batteries which must be replaced after a specific number of charging cycles, usually every 3 to 4 years, hydrogen fuels cells only need to be replaced every 10 years.

Lead batteries are complicated to dispose of due to their design and makeup, with a number of dangerous materials used in their manufacturing. Disposing of these may result in additional expenses for companies to have them safely disposed.


1. Hydrogen Supply

A stable supply of hydrogen needs to be available to run forklifts. If hydrogen is sourced from an external supplier, operations can be adversely affected when a delivery isn’t delivered resulting in extended forklift downtime.

The positive environmental impacts from using hydrogen may also be offset by the carbon emissions from the transport process, depending on the hydrogen source. 

2. New Technology Cost and Availability

Due to hydrogen fuel cells being a relatively new technology the availability of equipment may not be widespread with limited manufacturers and suppliers. This lack of supply may also make the technology costs prohibitive to small operators who do not have the budget to cover the costs.

Adaptalift Hyster are able to offer our customers the latest innovative materials handling units, including new hydrogen fuel cell models for smart, efficient, environmentally friendly operations.

We hope this post has provided you with a basic understanding of the benefits of Hydrogen Fuel Cell-Powered Forklifts and can now decide if this is applicable to your business in the future.

If you have any questions or comments about forklift batteries please leave them below.

Published By: Paul Hinz

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