Hyliion's Under-30 CEO Strives to Compete With Electric Car Giants

By Avi Ben Ezra Monday, August 17, 2020

You may recognize the name Thomas Healy from the 2017 Forbes 30 under 30 list. Then, Healy’s start-up company, Hyliion, was in the beginning stages of developing an innovation which he called “e-axle.” This is an electrified axle which is powered by lithium-ion batteries. This e-axle had to specifically be able to fit into the drivetrain of a traditional Class 8, long-haul truck.

Hyliion and the E-Axle

Healy, now 28, envisioned the e-axle as a hybrid bolt-on solution — a game-changer to providing electric power in the world of long-haul trucking. The benefit of the e-axle is that it can be fitted onto old trucks, or built into new ones.

Additionally, by providing power and torque, which enables diesel blocks to work more efficiently, another benefit of the e-axle is created. Moreover, it will also be advantageous for improving fuel mileage and lower emissions, not to mention its safe braking system of regenerative braking.

Attention From Investor Giants

Dana Inc, the billion-dollar automotive parts company, took an interest in Healy’s vision and subsequently made an equity investment in Hyliion. Working as a team, Hyliion and Dana Inc are manufacturing and marketing the device to Dana’s pool of customers.

How Does It Compare to Current Projects?

In comparison, Tesla and Nikola have focused their technologies on the electrification of heavy-duty trucks and building a brand new truck. Healy believes the opposite will be successful in allowing customers to choose the truck they desire, “The goal was to be able to allow them to still buy the truck they already know and love and have it with a brand-new powertrain that will really revolutionize their logistics.”

A Company Merger

The fact that Healy chose not to build a brand new truck from scratch attracted Vincent Cubbage, at investment company Tortoise, to put a company merger in the making. “When we think about how customers actually want to adopt new technology, they want to isolate the technology,” says Cubbage. They are not searching to replace their entire kit.

The merger was completed in June 2020. Following an agreed process, Tortoise will be renamed Hyliion, with the new ticker symbol HYLN. On top of that, funding of $560 million in cash is to be provided to fund the development of the e-axle as well as Hyliion’s second product in the making, called Hypertruck ERX.

The Hypertruck ERX

The concept behind Hyliion’s Hypertruck is for it to be an all-electric drivetrain while making use of Dana Inc’s electric motor, inverter, and axle technologies. Batteries will be fueled with the inclusion of onboard tanks of compressed natural gas.

With around 700 CNG stations operating nationwide presently, there’s no need to build expensive superchargers or hydrogen infrastructure. An order for 1000 Hypertrucks has already been placed by Agility (Kuwait-based logistics company). The first deliveries are expected to roll out in 2021.

Hyliion and Dana’s Secret Weapon

SVP of commercial vehicle drive systems at Dana, Ryan Laskey, commented that both the initial hybrid e-axle offering and their all-electric drivetrain are “agnostic” when referring to the types of engines and fuels they will be using. However, according to Laskey, the true secret weapon is Hyliion’s algorithms that monitor engine performance and road conditions to optimize efficiency.

Following User Advice

Healy says trucking fleets advised on the battery size, saying: “You can’t deliver a solution that weighs a lot more than a conventional truck does because that’s just going to cut into our cargo capacity.” In response, the Hypertruck features a small battery pack, a small generator, “with a really strong software algorithm behind it.”

Focusing on Customer Satisfaction

Laskey also praises Healy for his focus on customer satisfaction, saying, “He gives the customer something they don’t even know they want yet.” Whether the drivetrain is powered by either the grid, diesel or gasoline, Laskey says it is 25% better fuel economy.

Healy confirms that you do not have to plug it into the grid to charge the battery. You will be able to use an onboard natural gas generator. To take it a step further, when fueled with renewable natural gas (captured from landfills etc), the truck can operate with negative carbon emissions.

Healy May Become a Billionaire

According to SEC filings, when the deal is completed, Healy will own 22% of the company’s stock, which, at a current $19 per share, sports a market cap of nearly $600 million.

About the Author

Avi Ben Ezra

Avi Ben Ezra is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Cofounder of SnatchBot and SnatchApp (Snatch Group Limited). He leads the Group’s long-term technology vision and is responsible for running all facets of the tech business which includes being the architect of the platforms and UI interfaces.

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