Amazon looks to fuel cells for material handling

April 6, 2017

Plug Power Inc. announced that it has reached an agreement with Amazon to utilize Plug Power fuel cells and hydrogen technology in its fulfillment network. Amazon will begin powering its industrial equipment such as forklifts at some fulfillment centers using Plug Power’s GenKey technology.

Revenues associated with the commercial agreements are expected to be around $70 million in 2017.

Imani Moise and Laura Stevens in The Wall Street Journal report that Amazon could become one of Plug Power’s largest shareholders under a multiyear commitment that could be worth up to $600 million.

They quote an Amazon spokesperson as saying, “We are excited to partner with Plug Power to enable faster charge times of powered-industrial trucks in our fulfillment centers, helping to reduce costs and support energy-efficiency within our operations.”

GenKey is a turnkey system that includes the GenDrive or GenSure hydrogen fuel-cell system, GenFuel hydrogen infrastructure and fuel delivery, and service and support. GenDrive fuel cells offer an alternative to lead-acid batteries in material-handling equipment use by companies like Amazon. GenSure fuel cells serve stationary applications for backup, grid-supplement, and off-grid power needs. GenFuel delivers hydrogen to customers while offering the associated infrastructure and fuel dispensers.

“This agreement is a tremendous opportunity for Plug Power to further innovate and grow while helping to support the work Amazon does to pick, pack and ship customer orders,” said Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power. “Our hydrogen fuel-cell technology, comprehensive service network, and commitment to providing cost-savings for customers has enabled Plug Power to become a trusted partner to many in the industry and we are excited to begin working with Amazon.”

In addition, Amazon and Plug Power said they will begin working together on technology collaboration, exploring the expansion of applications for Plug Power’s line of ProGen fuel-cell engines.

Moise and Stevens in the Journal write that Amazon “…has a history of acquiring technology that it believes would boost its warehouse operations…. Amazon’s most notable investment in warehouse efficiency was its $775 million acquisition of robot maker Kiva Systems Inc. in 2012. Those robots bring shelves to warehouse workers, keeping the workers from having to wander through giant fulfillment centers looking for customer orders.”

About the Author

Rick Nelson | Contributing Editor

Rick is currently Contributing Technical Editor. He was Executive Editor for EE in 2011-2018. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.

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