Plug Power Inc., a leader in providing clean, reliable energy solutions, has been selected for a $2.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to modify electric tow tractor ground equipment to function with GenDrive hydrogen fuel cells in airport applications.
Under a three-year initiative with the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 15 tow tractors will be deployed at FedEx Express airport hub locations in Memphis, Tennessee and Oakland, California. FedEx will deploy hydrogen fuel cell technology at these sites to study the productivity, efficiency and the environmental benefits of using hydrogen.
"FedEx continually works toward goals to increase vehicle efficiencies and reduce emissions in big and small ways that are sustainable and long-lasting," said Russell Musgrove, Managing Director with FedEx Express. "Plug Power's plan to develop and deploy fuel cell-powered baggage tow tractors aligns with our commitment to continually research and test technologies that will help us connect the world in responsible and resourceful ways."
Hydrogen fuel cells have proven benefits in power applications as a replacement to traditional lead-acid batteries. Customers using hydrogen fuel cells have experienced significant improvements in productivity and operational efficiencies in running their large distribution centers and manufacturing operations. Many of these customers are now interested in extending these benefits to other areas within their business, including ground support equipment applications, other fleet vehicles and refrigerated trailer operations. "Ground support equipment is a natural fit for our GenDrive product, and this project allows us to take our prior expertise in the area and further develop it for future commercialization," said Andy Marsh, CEO at Plug Power. "FedEx has been a valuable collaborator for Plug Power in the past and we look forward to continuing our positive work with them as the company evaluates additional markets."
Senator Schumer announced the DOE award in a press release dated October, 31st and re-emphasized its importance in helping to expand the use of fuel cells. "This significant federal award means that Plug Power can continue to help the Capital Region secure its place as an international hub for fuel cell research and development," said Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY). "Plug Power will not only further the development of domestic fuel cell technologies with their plan to retrofit 15 electric tow tractors, the company will also put this innovative technology to practical use as they study the usage of these in real world applications like those at FedEx. I applaud the federal government for rewarding Plug Power's innovation, which is both energy-efficient and cost-effective."
Senator Gillibrand included her support in expanding the use of fuel cells in driving a renewable energy economy. "Plug Power continues to be on the leading edge of fuel cell research and development. This important federal investment is another example of the critical mass of innovation and high technology we possess in the Capital Region," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "The initiative between Plug Power and FedEx is yet another example of how green technology drives our innovation and economy by providing energy-efficient and affordable renewable energy alternatives."
Congressman Paul Tonko, an engineer and expert in the House of Representatives in energy policy, added why this award is so important in expanding fuel cells to other markets. "Plug Power is a local example of our national commitment to leadership in advanced fuel cell research and development," said Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY 21st CD). "Plain and simple, research equals jobs. This project is just the beginning of a more energy efficient and cleaner burning transformation of on the ground tractors at our nation's airports. These are the type of investments that create jobs, grow our economy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make our air cleaner. I commend Plug Power for receiving this competitive federal award and will continue to fight for clean energy innovation funding right here in the Capital Region."
The award was made to Plug Power pursuant to a competitive solicitation issued by the DOE on April 25, 2012.
FedEx Freight has used GenDrive fuel cells in its Springfield, Missouri facility since 2009. Taking a leadership role in the adoption and advancement of responsible environmental practices, FedEx Freight invested in GenDrive to save energy and demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. Through this continued collaboration, Plug Power believes this award will help pave the way for expansion of these best practices into adjacent markets, and the further use of hydrogen powered fuel cells as an important source of alternative energy.