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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Pilot

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Pilot

The Postal Service implemented a pilot project from February 2017 to February 2018 replacing lead-acid batteries with hydrogen fuel cells to power fork lifts, tow motors, and pallet jacks at the Washington, DC, Network Distribution Center (NDC).

Hydrogen fuel cells proved to be a viable alternative to lead-acid batteries for use with powered industrial vehicles (PIV).  Lead acid batteries have limited run-time, long recharging cycles, and pose environmental and safety risks. Hydrogen fuel cells offer shortened recharge/refueling time, provided more steady voltage, and cleaner operations. In addition, hydrogen fuel cells reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Pilot

Financial highlights of the first year pilot include:

  • $3.4 million total investment including capital and expense
  • $3.5 million annual cost avoidance and operational savings
  • 107%  Return on investment

This was achieved through:

  • 27% increase in operator productivity as measured by containers handled per hour
  • Elimination of lead acid battery system costs
  • Electricity savings

The Postal Service is considering evaluation of the scalability of the technology at other facilities based on the pilot’s positive results.