This story caught my eye not because hydrogen fuel cells are replacing diesel engines on refrigerated trucks, but because they will be replacing the secondary diesel engines on these vehicles. Refrigerated trucks, the ones that carry food from distribution centers to grocery stores usually have a secondary diesel engine used for cooling.
In an effort to use less fuel and lower emissions the U. S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is teaming up with Sysco and the H-E-B grocery store chain to install fuel cells on their refrigerated delivery trucks. These two companies already use hydrogen fuel cell powered forklifts at their warehouse facilities.
The Sysco Corp. food distribution center is a state of the art facility located in Riverside, California. The H-E-B distribution center is another high-end facility located in San Antonio, Texas.
According to PNNL, “Industry officials estimate that approximately 300,000 refrigerated trucks with auxiliary power units are on the road in the United States. By replacing the small diesel engines with the more efficient fuel cell, users will see fuel savings of approximately 10 gallons a day per unit, in addition to reduced emission of pollutants and significantly quieter operation …
“…Both the Sysco and the H-E-B facilities already use forklifts powered by hydrogen fuel cells, part of a trend fostered by DOE to increase the use of the technology in industry. At both companies, the infrastructure to provide hydrogen for the fuel cells is already in place; the hydrogen is generated on site from natural gas and water using Nuvera’s PowerTap™ hydrogen generator and refueling system. For the site using the Plug Power technology, the hydrogen will be supplied by Air Products using an outdoor hydrogen dispenser.”
So, you see even without replacing the main diesel engines (which would be nice to do, down the road), a significant amount of fuel can be saved and emissions reduced. And this will require only minimal infrastructure to support the efforts.