- Walmart will boost its energy efficiency at up to 30 distribution centers, using Plug Power's fuel cells and hydrogen stations, up from 22 previously announced, according to various news outlets. The company is also buying 55.3 million shares in Plug Power, earning it a 17% stake.
- The fuel cells and hydrogen stations re-power forklifts and other equipment at warehouses and distribution centers at a faster rate, increasing e-commerce efficiency, according to USA Today.
- The Wall Street Journal reports the move mirrors a similar purchase by Amazon in April, which invested $70 million in Plug Power’s vehicles and also received rights to buy 55.3 million shares, or a 19% stake at the time.
The rivalry between Amazon and Walmart is proving to be good news for Plug Power, which also supplies power sources for Home Depot and other big box retailers. Thanks to the rivals' investments, Plug Power's stock has risen 72.8% in the past four months, before either deal was announced.
However, beyond providing faster charging time for warehouse equipment, Walmart's nearly identical purchase reveals how closely it intends to compete with Amazon. As the amount invested in Plug Power is the same, and the stake in the company is nearly identical, Walmart's spend ensures it will remain in the know should Amazon attempt to buy out the company, as it did with Kiva Robots back in 2012. That purchase put it light years ahead in warehouse technology, a scenario Walmart is keen to avoid now that Amazon has grown into a threat.
Yet, there's a practical aspect to the purchase on Walmart's part as well. Plug Power provides a superior product, which allows Walmart to increase the speed of its deliveries, a task it must meet if it truly intends to beat Amazon at its own game. New, tested and efficient technology is an appealing option for retailers looking to standout in the quick, last-mile delivery game.