Described by CEO Andy Marsh as the “magic” inside any fuel cell, Plug Power revealed earlier this month it will begin production of its own membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs), a key component of the company’s new ProGen metal plate stack.
Leveraging the expertise gained through Plug Power’s acquisition of premier MEA technology developer American Fuel Cell (AFC), the new stack provides the US company with a competitive edge, doubling the power density of its graphite plate stack and extending the life cycle for on-road applications.
“The MEA is the ‘magic’ inside any fuel cell, enabling the hydrogen (H2) fuel and oxygen (O2) from the air to create electricity,” explained Marsh in an interview with gasworld. “The AFC acquisition enables Plug Power to make its own MEAs, which will lower the cost of our fuel cell stacks and bring our supply chain further in-house, giving us more control over our products.”
“H2 fuel cells are the cleanest alternative energy solution available today, with heat and water as the only by-products.”
“With the new ProGen metal plate stack, we’re introducing a robust alternative energy solution that lasts longer and more than doubles standard battery-powered electric vehicle (BEV) range, keeping high utilisation fleet vehicles on the road longer.”
“For businesses dependent on the usability and range of delivery vehicles, H2 fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) provide markedly improved uptime, offering a sustainable alternative to the lengthy charge times and range anxiety associated with BEVs.”
But currently the biggest challenge for the industry is a lack of H2 infrastructure, said Marsh.
“Much like when Tesla first launched, it battled with a lack of charging stations and users worried about the ability to take long-distance trips without running out of power. We too must find a way to make H2 fuel stations more accessible to the masses.”
“In the short term, Plug Power is expanding into the ‘tethered’ vehicle market - fleets like delivery vans and airport tuggers - where localised fuel stations can serve vehicles that return ‘home’ every day.
“In the longer term, Plug Power is actively working with groups including the Hydrogen Council to further the availability of cost-effective H2 across the US and globally.”
Innovation is integral to Plug Power’s leadership as it continues to move the application of H2 fuel cells forward across the globe. The company will continue to provide the best solutions for material handling to maintain its dominant market share, but also to find innovative solutions in the burgeoning on-road market for H2.
Plug Power recently announced a partnership with RPI and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop a first-of-its-kind, autonomous, robotic H2 fuelling station that can refuel a vehicle without human intervention.
The project has passed the pilot feasibility stage and has been awarded a $2m DOE grant so the team can develop a commercially viable solution.
Concluding, Marsh said, “We truly believe that H2 is the fuel of the future, especially when you consider it is the most abundant element in the known universe,” Marsh said. “If we’re able to find an efficient way to make H2 our fuel, it’s not just Plug Power but all of humanity that wins.”
“Not only does this fuel have the ability to increase efficiency for material handling equipment and on-road freight applications, but it can also massively reduce our carbon footprint through autonomous passenger vehicles, drones, and more.”
“In the past several years, H2 has proven itself to be one of the most viable options for the world’s fuel of the future.”