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Success Story: American Fuel Cell and Plug Power

Plug Power Inc. of Latham and Rochester, New York is developing clean hydrogen and zero-emission fuel cell solutions to replace conventional batteries in vehicles and equipment that are powered by electricity. In 2018, Plug Power acquired American Fuel Cell (AFC), a Rochester, New York developer of membrane electrode assembly (MEA) technology, which enables fuel cells to create power.

The Challenge

Prior to its acquisition by Plug Power, AFC had been awarded a contract by a fuel cell integrator for next-generation MEA development and a high-volume manufacturing scaleup. Access to specialized equipment, advanced testing methods, and technical expertise were required. As part of this process, materials advances were needed to produce an economically viable MEA product through raw material selection and supplier qualification. Meeting this challenge required continuing the progress made in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the largest multi-program science and energy research laboratory in the United States.

The Solution

FuzeHub, which administers the Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund, awarded the Energy Storage and Conversion Laboratory at Alfred State University a $75,000 Manufacturing Grant to collaborate with AFC on a project that rapidly advanced the company’s MEA technology. This greatly increased AFC’s potential for success by improving testing and analysis and speeding time to market.

The Impacts

AFC’s advancements also made the company attractive to investors. The acquisition by Plug Power, a company with $230.2 million (USD) of revenue in 2019, resulted in $5,000,000 in increased investment at AFC. In a press release announcing its acquisition of AFC, Plug Power specifically cited its interest in “new technologies and teams that can help us to grow our business.”

“The funding and support we received from the National Lab and FuzeHub allowed us to significantly advance our technology and move quickly through the testing phases required to demonstrate performance and cost targets were achieved. We would not have progressed as quickly without that support.” – Daniel O’Connell, General Manager at Plug Power’s Rochester Operations, formerly co-founder and CEO of American Fuel Cell

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