Filling up with hydrogen is not as easy as filling up with gas or plugging in an electric car—at least it's not yet.

To make it easier—and importantly, cheaper for businesses—Plug Power, a New York fuel-cell company, has developed a new robotic hydrogen filling station.

Plug Power GenFuel hydrogen filling station

Plug Power GenFuel hydrogen filling station

The system is designed to work in warehouses where hydrogen-powered forklifts and other equipment can save time refueling. Plug Power says every additional second spent refueling can add up to $1,000 in costs annually for such businesses.

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Plug Power worked with the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the National Renewable Energy Lab to develop the fueling stations, using a $2 million grant from the Department of Energy.

The robotic fueling station isn't just about hydrogen-powered forklifts in warehouses, although that's expected to be the first application.

“Today, the technology can retrofit existing GenFuel sites supporting the more than 20,000 GenDrive fuel cells in the field,” said Dustan Skidmore, vice president of engineering at Plug Power. “In the future, the technology can be used in on-road fleet vehicles, autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), and self-driving passenger cars.”

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Plug Power built the fuel-cell that powers the nation's first fuel-cell FedEx delivery truck in upstate New York. The truck, converted to fuel-cell power by Workhorse, fills up with hydrogen at Plug Power's Latham, New York, headquarters and has accumulated more than 3,000 miles in testing.