Amazon will replace some of its battery forklifts with hydrogen fuel cell ones

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Enlarge / Forklifts outfitted with Plug Power hydrogen fuel cells. (credit: Plug Power)

On Wednesday, hydrogen fuel cell company Plug Power announced that Amazon would be changing its battery-operated forklifts to hydrogen fuel cell-powered ones at 11 of its fulfillment centers. According to Reuters, Amazon secured the right to buy up to 23 percent of the company as well, which would make the online retailer one of the largest shareholders in the fuel cell company.

Plug Power said in a press release that Amazon would be spending about $70 million in 2017 to purchase Plug Power’s GenKey systems, which include fuel cells for forklifts, stationary fuel cells for backup power, hydrogen fueling infrastructure and fuel, as well as customer support.

Hydrogen fuel cells are seen as interesting alternatives to batteries because batteries can take a long time to recharge, whereas fuel cells are simply refilled, like filling up the gas tank in a car. There’s also no real waste or emissions associated with using hydrogen to power a vehicle, besides harmless H2O. But there are downsides, too. Making hydrogen often relies on burning greenhouse gases, so critics say it’s not truly a carbon-neutral fuel. And transporting hydrogen is more difficult than transporting, say, gasoline, as it often needs to be compressed or kept at very cold temperatures.

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