AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (March 31, 2008) – Quiet, clean-energy forklifts powered by environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel cells are now moving materials around Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC’s (BFNT) plant in Aiken County, S.C. BFNT officials, along with the Economic Development Partnership of South Carolina, unveiled today at the plant a new “green-powered” forklift fleet that is replacing traditional battery-powered forklifts. Officials also announced the installation of a hydrogen fuel pump across from the plant that will be used by BFNT as well as other surrounding businesses.
The plant is exchanging 23 forklifts this year and 20 in 2009 to create an all-hydrogen fleet. The fuel cells are a direct replacement that last longer than batteries and save time by refueling instead of recharging.
“We are very excited about this new green initiative,” said Plant Manager Mike Rose. “This is a natural step for a technology-focused company like Bridgestone. Using this cutting-edge technology in a practical way helps our teammates and plant visitors get familiar with this clean, alternative energy. We’re proud to be among the first in the neighborhood to use this green, clean fuel in our material movers.”
The project expands on BFNT’s success using hydrogen fuel cells to run industrial vehicles at other facilities. BFNT’s current hydrogen-powered vehicles run two to three times as long on a hydrogen fuel cell and take one-fourth of the time to refuel compared with battery-powered vehicles. Despite the upfront cost of hydrogen fuel infrastructure, these changes provide a positive financial return on investment and present a viable alternative to traditional vehicles.
“The use of alternative energy sources, like hydrogen fuel cells, is key to our state’s economic future,” said Fred Humes, Director of the Economic Development Partnership. “When a company like Bridgestone Firestone makes a commitment to take the lead using alternative energy, it’s a true testament to its dedication to the environment and our community.” Humes is also the Founding Chairman of the Board of Directors for the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, hydrogen fuel cells improve teammate safety. They eliminate the hazards associated with changing heavy fork truck batteries. The longer life of the fuel cell also reduces the number of times fork trucks need to be driven near pedestrian-occupied areas.
The passenger and light truck tire plant began working with Plug Power (NASDAQ: PLUG), formerly General Hydrogen, on a prototype fuel cell project in January 2007.
The BFNT Aiken County plant has a history of progressive environmental initiatives that include an on-site wildlife habitat and nature education area. The area is certified by the international Wildlife Habitat Council for wildlife habitat management and Corporate Lands for Learning, through which the Aiken team educates the community on the importance of ecology. The plant also has received numerous environmental awards for pollution prevention and environmental stewardship and is a charter member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Performance Track program, which recognizes facilities that are industry leaders in environmental performance.
About Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC:
Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT) is a subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., whose parent company, Bridgestone Corporation, is the world’s largest tire and rubber company. BFNT develops, manufactures and markets Bridgestone, Firestone and associate brand tires. The company is focused on wholesale and original equipment markets, supplying passenger, light truck, commercial vehicle, off the road, motorcycle, agricultural and other tires to its customers in North America.