Photo/IllutrationA fuel-cell forklift is seen in Yokohama on March 14. (Ken Sakakibara)

A group of local governments and companies will start a trial this fall of fuel-cell forklifts that use hydrogen produced from wind power at warehouses and other locations in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The project will be conducted by Toyota Motor Corp., Toshiba Corp., Iwatani Corp., Kanagawa Prefecture, and the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the entire process--from electricity generation to forklift operation--could be slashed by 80 percent compared with conventional combustion engine forklifts, the group said.

The project will explore the problems that may emerge in the production, storing and transporting of hydrogen with an eye toward a “hydrogen society.”

In the first step, electricity will be generated at a wind farm along the coast of Yokohama. The electricity will be used to run a water electrolysis apparatus manufactured by Toshiba to produce hydrogen.

The hydrogen will be shipped to a produce market and distribution warehouses in Yokohama and Kawasaki for use in fuel-cell forklifts. The forklifts will be powered by electricity produced by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

The majority of hydrogen distributed throughout Japan is produced from fossil fuels and other materials, releasing carbon dioxide during the production process.

If wind power is used to produce hydrogen through water electrolysis, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced to zero. However, the downside to the method is that hydrogen cannot be produced in large quantities.