Bringing the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Market From Concept to Commercialization: Interview With Andy Marsh

The culture of our company is integral to our functioning: it’s all about the teaming, the passion, the knowledge and the creation of something new.”

Andy Marsh joined Plug Power as President and CEO in April 2008. Under his leadership, Plug Power has led innovation, bringing the hydrogen fuel cell market from concept to commercialization. Early on, Marsh identified material handling as the first commercially viable market targeted by Plug Power. Today, the firm’s fuel cell solutions are leveraged by world leaders such as Amazon, Walmart, and Carrefour to power industrial electric vehicles.

Mr. Marsh is a prominent voice leading the hydrogen and fuel cell industry. Nationally, he is the Chairman of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, and sits as a member of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Tactical Advisory Committee (HTAC). Internationally, Mr. Marsh represents Plug Power in their role as supporting members of the Hydrogen Council, a global initiative of leading energy, transport and industry companies.

Can you give our viewers a brief introduction to yourself and your background?

I grew up outside Philadelphia and got my Bachelor’s degree from Temple University. After that, I was fortunate enough to be hired by Bell Laboratories—the equivalent of Google Labs years ago. Bell sent me to get my Master’s degree from Duke University, and then I worked with Bell for another eighteen years in the electrical engineering department.

After moving up the ranks and getting an MBA from SMU, I made the decision to start a venture company with my friends: we started a company that provided power for telecom networks. We sold the company after it became successful, and I was then recruited by Plug Power.

Can you tell us a bit more about Plug Power and why you joined the company?

Plug Power developed the first commercial market for fuel cells in the world: it wasn’t the ‘high-end’ of the market, but what we saw was that you could start building mine hydrogen ecosystems for fuel cells and forklift trucks. With this, we’ve managed to ship over 50,000 and build 165 fueling stations so far.

Along the way, we also developed technology—Power Plug became the largest manufacturer of mbas in the US for fuel cells. At the moment, we’re building the first green hybrid network across the United States with over 500 tons a day: that’s the biggest facility in the world!

Why I joined Power Plug is because Power is known as the premier pure play fuel cell company in the world—it’s an interesting company that has been worth the journey to make something out of it over the past thirteen years.

How can we help underdeveloped countries?

The three key things to helping underdeveloped countries are as follows: money, technology and partnerships. 

Organizations like the World Bank need to provide money to developing countries and take more risk. Once they do that, the underdeveloped countries will look more attractive to private money and investments from financiers. Private investors don’t want to be in positions where they can risk all of their pension funds in an underdeveloped country because of instability.

How do you see the sustainability movement change or adapt going forward in the future, and how can the young generation lead this movement?

One of our main problems —especially as Americans—is that we like immediate gratification. The climate challenge is over 70 years old, so it’s all about celebrating the little wins along the way. It’s going to take a long time, and it’ll be an uphill battle, but it just requires a specific mentality: we have an obligation to the future and to make a better world. We have to think of future generations and our future families who will benefit from us fixing the climate issue.

What is the most exciting part about your day as a CEO at Plug Power? How do you effectively manage a company with so many employees?

I enjoy the journey: I love everything from talking to groups like Penn Innovation in Business to working on big deals and projects. Just like when I was younger and played basketball, I got into the ‘flow of the game’ here in business—I enjoy what I do and I love every day because I’m passionate about my work. 

I effectively manage my company by making myself accessible. Before the company was big, I would know everything about my employees: their children and their children’s names! But now, I use Zoom where I have routine meetings with my 2,500 employees, letting them ask me questions about anything and everything. I emphasize our company’s core values and make sure that communication within the company is streamlined.

The culture of our company is integral to our functioning: it’s all about the teaming, the passion, the knowledge, and the creation of something new.

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