Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh On Why He Expects Fuel Cells To 'Dominate' By The End Of The Decade

Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh On Why He Expects Fuel Cells To 'Dominate' By The End Of The Decade

Hydrogen fuel cell company Plug Power's PLUG stock surged after it announced its acquisitions of both United Hydrogen and Giner ELX, doubling down on its commitment to operate on at least 50% green hydrogen by 2024.

The Buzz For EVs: The news follows a series of enticing announcements in the alternative energy sector that have driven investor interest higher.

Earlier this month, Nikola Corp. NKLA debuted on the stock market, and Benzinga spoke with president and CEO Mark Russell about his company’s vision for a hydrogen-powered future.

Texas-based electric truck startup Hyliion is performing a similar reverse-merger with special purpose acquisition company Tortoise Acquisition Corp. SHLL to bring its own battery electric truck into competition.

Nikola and Lordstown Motors are building hype behind their electric pickups. Lordstown is partly owned by Workhorse Group Inc WKHS. June has been a hot month to invest in the sector.

Benzinga caught up with Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh to discuss the company's ambitions and the viability of hydrogen as a fuel source.

BZ: How do you feel about your recent acquisitions? What does this vertical integration plan allow Plug Power to do?

Marsh: First and foremost, we did it because customers actually wanted clean hydrogen. And our biggest customers are people like Amazon AMZN, Walmart WMT and Home Depot HD.

That drives our vision, and in December 2019, we laid out a plan to generate $1 billion in revenue by 2024. And it was actually based on also having more than half of all hydrogen be generated by Plug Power.

We are the biggest user of hydrogen as a fuel in the world. Today, we essentially buy and resell hydrogen. With the acquisition of United Hydrogen, we actually have the ability to build large-scale hydrogen plants.

BZ: How will you supply the transportation industry?

Marsh: It's probably a little-known fact, but we have built more hydrogen stations than anyone else in the world. And if you were driving a Walmart truck, you could actually go from Lewiston, Maine, to Santa Clara, California, stopping at hydrogen stations that we have built. We obviously are very ambitious when it comes to on-road vehicles.

We were introduced to Lightning Systems, which has done BEVs with Amazon as well as fuel cell electric vehicles. Amazon not only is one of our largest customers, but also is a shareholder of Plug Power. So they've introduced us to Lightning Systems.

They will be putting on the road this year — both in North America and Europe — hydrogen-powered trucks powered by our fuel cells. When we look out to 2024, we believe Plug Power will be a $1.2-billion business with about $200 million of that coming from vehicles.

BZ: When does hydrogen become the dominant player in transportation?

Marsh: If you look at between now and 2030, the applications for fuel cell electric vehicles are really more geared toward fleet vehicles. DHL has done a study, and they were kind enough to share it with us, where they show that over 100 miles, a typical delivery van with batteries is not really practical for package delivery. Fuel cells will have a dominant position.

Also, in Paris and London, we are beginning to see taxis operating on hydrogen. If you have centralized refueling, it actually can be much lower cost than electrical refueling. So it is going to be applications that are fleet vehicles, trucking and areas like that where I think fuel cells will dominate by the end of this decade.

BZ: What are your thoughts on Elon Musk referring to fuel cells as “fool cells”?

Marsh: It is hard to be critical of Elon Musk. I think that it's interesting, if you are in the United States, the people turn to Musk and listen to him for leadership. You know, if you are in China or Korea, lots of people look to Toyota's views. And I think Toyota believes in fuel cell electric vehicles. If I had a way to charge it, I would own a battery electric car. I live in a condo. There is no way I could charge my car here.

But I think if you use a car 4% of the time, 5% of the time, like most Americans today, that battery electric vehicles are the right solution. However, I would love it if Elon Musk decides that fuel cells have some value. And I would love it if he knocked on my door. I would be happy to sell to him.

You will have people who believe fuel cells are the only answer. And some people are saying batteries are the only answer. I understand there are places for both technologies based on how people use the product.

Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh. Courtesy photo. 

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