Plug Power Inc. has recently signed a cooperative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Zhangjiagang Furui Special Equipment Co., LTD (Furui), along with one of the ‘big three’ Chinese automakers, to develop new fuel cell applications and fuelling solutions for China’s industrial electric vehicle market.
The three companies plan to collaborate to build electric vehicles equipped with Plug Power designed hybrid fuel cell engine systems and hydrogen (H2) fuelling station solutions.
gasworld spoke exclusively to Plug Power’s CEO, Andy Marsh, about the hybrid fuel cell engine systems and the company’s experience with the Chinese market.
Can you tell gasworld a little more about Plug Power’s fuel cell applications?
What Plug Power has done over the years is develop pieces of technology which we call ‘building blocks’. There are four basic building blocks, and when they are combined they make up a fuel cell for forklift trucks. We began to realise, that as you start to look at a variety of differed mobile applications, these four blocks could be used in other products.
Our thought process now is to make sure that we have maximum flexibility so that the building blocks can be integrated into different vehicles. This enables us to keep the same product and use it over and over again. This not only helps us to reduce costs, but also allows us to continue to increase the performance as well as the quality of each of the blocks. For example, we will have four basic building blocks, which will over time continue to increase in power density and efficiency, and decrease in size and cost. Therefore, instead of just being able to roll the blocks into a specific activity like forklift trucks, they can be used in a wide variety of customer activities.
In regards to the market, have you faced any challenges?
Plug Power has been deeply involved with China for a long time and this has enabled us to understand the government business structure, especially from a supply chain point of view.
The sales process in China is quite different to what one would experience in North America or Europe. There’s heavy involvement of the state, as well as local communities, in the plans and acceptance and deployment of products and technologies, especially when they are incorporated in the five-year plan.
We have built the fuel cell market from material handling and it’s a large market opportunity. We believe this activity in China will be larger and equally important to the business. It really opens up a whole other viable market segment for Plug Power.
Is there anything else your working on at the moment that you can share with gasworld?
We’ve started developing models of predicted maintenance, so that we know when units need to be fixed and repaired before the customer does. Ultimately, our goal for 2020 is to reach the point of zero customer down time. Eventually we will be able to remotely control and manage the unit from a desktop. This will not only reduce costs and improve the profitability of the business, but it will make for a much more enjoyable customer experience, because they will never have to worry about whether the forklift tower system is working.
Plug Power is the first company to have mass deployment of fuel cell technology for mobile applications and currently uses 7% of liquid hydrogen in the US. By the end of the year, Plug Power will have built 46 H2 stations that will be delivering over five tonnes of H2 a day and doing over 10,000 fuelling’s into their GenDrive products.
The company has also recently been named to Deloitte’s 2016 Technology Fast 500™, a listing of the 500 fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and energy tech companies in North America.
This company built the fuel cell mobile industrial industry, and now we are very excited to expand well beyond forklift trucks and onto a wide variety of industrial mobility applications. We really believe we have laid the ground work over the last five years, and the world’s about to see an explosion.