Tech giant Amazon announced today that it has acquired the right to buy up to a 23 percent stake in hydrogen fuel cell maker Plug Power. Amazon also announced plans to hire as many as 30,000 part-time employees in the U.S.
The deal with Plug Power includes an agreement allowing Amazon to purchase Plug Power fuel cells and hydrogen technology to power industrial equipment at its fulfillment centers.
In addition, the companies said they will begin collaborating on further developing Plug Power?EU?s fuel cell technology, with an eye toward finding ways to expand the applications for its ProGen line of fuel cell engines. The partnership could give Amazon a crucial advantage in powering equipment used for parcel deliveries and other logistics applications.
The likely purpose of the agreement is to give Amazon a foothold in a sector that will become increasingly important to the company in the future. The retail giant has made no secret of its efforts to develop autonomous delivery drones to reduce its logistics costs. Plug Power said that its new line of fuel cells, the ProGen platform, can be applied to a variety of fields including on-road electric vehicles. The partnership with Plug Power will give Amazon an established partner in developing that technology for its future delivery fleet.
At the moment, though, the collaboration between the companies will center around Plug Power supplying hydrogen fuel cells to select Amazon fulfillment center locations. The fuel cells will be used to replace the lead-acid batteries currently used to power heavy industrial equipment such as forklifts.
The switch from traditional lead-acid batteries to hydrogen fuel cells offers several advantages for the online retailer. Plug Power said its fuel cells can be charged significantly faster than existing batteries, resulting in less downtime for the equipment and lower…