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Hyliion CEO on bringing ‘electrified solutions to classic commercial vehicles’

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Thomas Healy, founder & CEO of Hyliion, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the benefits of Hyliion’s recent introduction of the next generation battery module and the upcoming Hybrid system to be released in 2021.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

JULIE HYMAN: The electrification race is red hot when it comes to vehicle makers in the United States and abroad, for that matter. And we've seen a lot of investment pour into many of these companies. Let's talk about the truck side of electrification. We're joined now by Thomas Healy. He is the CEO of Hyliion, which is a company attempting to make batteries, power trains, et cetera for electric trucks. Thomas, thanks for being here.

You guys did deliver some of these systems last year. And you're looking at a bigger expansion this year and then really ramping up going into the couple of years following that. Where are you in terms of development of your products? And what's the goal, from a technological perspective, of where you want to end 2021?

THOMAS HEALY: Yeah. I appreciate you having me on. And you're correct. We've already started delivering some of our electrified power trains into the trucking space. Our focus is to bring electrified solutions to Class 8 commercial vehicles. So the large semi trucks that you see going down the highway, our goal is to electrify them make them cleaner, make them more economical. And as you mentioned, our hybrid solution-- we've already started delivering that to fleets today.

And then we're in the development phase right now of our Hypertruck ERX, which is a fully electric, long-haul vehicle. But it actually doesn't use the grid to recharge. It actually produces the electricity locally on the vehicle to recharge the battery pack.

BRIAN SOZZI: Thomas, when does that hyper truck come to market? How much does it cost? And in the battery technology in that truck-- how long does it take to charge?

THOMAS HEALY: So the Hypertruck is going to be coming to market next year. Later this year we're going to start delivering demo trucks to fleets, and then next year starting commercialization. I appreciate you bringing up the battery. This is one of the things that we just recently announced, that-- we've developed our own battery modules. We're bringing those to market with unbelievable charge rates. We can do a full battery pack recharge in about eight minutes. And we're expecting about five times the life of the battery pack compared to a normal EV battery.

So a lot of great advancements there. We're integrating Toshiba cells. And then we're doing all the packaging, the cooling, and the battery management system around the batteries.

MYLES UDLAND: You know, Thomas, I'm curious about the-- the decision you guys made, obviously, years ago to target the commercial market first and what dynamics you're seeing there because we've seen a lot of electrification, obviously, with Tesla on the consumer side. I think individuals-- you hear a lot more in common conversation. And I'm curious what you guys are hearing on the commercial side and what the challenges are there and why you guys chose that opportunity.

THOMAS HEALY: So commercial vehicles is all about payback, right? When fleets look at developing-- or adopting-- a new powertrain, they look at, how long is it going to take for this solution to save me more money than it costs? And that's very different than the passenger car space, which is much more driven off of emotions of if you want to drive an electric vehicle.

And so when we looked at this Class 8 space, these trucks are driving 100,000 miles a year, right? And so if we can come in and reduce the amount of fuel they consume, ultimately reduce the amount of emissions these vehicles are producing, that's going to have a very positive impact on the environment. And one of the things that we announced on our earnings call just a couple of days ago is that we've really laid out our roadmap for this Class 8 long-haul solution. So today we're starting with using renewable natural gas, and then we're evolving over time into using hydrogen as the fuel we use to actually be able to recharge the vehicles.

Now, one of the things that we see as a key differentiator for what we're doing is we're actually adding a middle step there of a fuel agnostic vehicle that can run on both renewable natural gas and on hydrogen, which really offers up fleets the ultimate flexibility of, what fuel do they want to use to actually drive their vehicles? They can now base their decisions off of fuel price, station location, what's going to be-- make the most sense for them.

BRIAN SOZZI: Thomas, getting a-- I'm just seeing a tweet right now from-- from Bill Gates. An investor in the sector, he has backed Quantumscape, a battery player. He's noting at CERAWeek that green hydrogen would be a quote "huge deal in helping the energy transition." In your view, how-- how tough is it to get cheap, green hydrogen right now?

THOMAS HEALY: So it's feasible, but we've got a long way to go. In order to make green hydrogen that's cost effective, you really need free electricity, or very, very cheap electricity. And that's not available today.

So that's where-- when we looked at this roadmap into the future of trucking, we couldn't sit here and be reliant on hydrogen coming to market in the very near term, right? I think we're going to see some hydrogen stations come up and be available, but it's going to take a long time to get them built out across the country. And so that's where we saw this area here where we can actually start with renewable natural gas and evolve into hydrogen over time and even have a solution that can run on both to really give fleets that flexibility and makes the most sense.

And hydrogen is-- is very expensive today. It's about 10x the cost of natural gas. So there's a lot of decrease in cost and decrease in the emissions that comes from actually producing hydrogen that needs to take place here.

MYLES UDLAND: You know, Thomas, finally, I know you guys are focused on powering the vehicles. But when I think of the future of trucking, I also think about automation and the efficiency that we could see-- efficiency gains, I guess, if we don't have individuals driving the trucks. How do you guys think about that, if at all? I mean, that's, again, another part of where people are working. But certainly, I'm sure you guys have some thoughts as it fits into the future of trucking here in the US.

THOMAS HEALY: So autonomous vehicles, I think, are coming. And the Class 8 space is a perfect place to actually adopt those types of solutions first. What was very unique about our business model, though, is we're focused on the powertrain, right? We kind of looked at this as, there's not a need for one company to come in and revolutionize everything, right? The trucking industry is already set up where you have OEMs that make trucks, you have players that make power trains, you also have players that are doing autonomous solutions.

So we saw that our focus here, our sweet spot, was really in the powertrain and then being able to leverage already existing chassis. One of the other announcements we made on our earnings call is that our first roll out of Hypertrucks are going to be on Peterbilt trucks. And so we saw this as a more easy way to get to market, a faster way, use the trucks that fleets already know and love. As opposed to us trying to go revolutionize a brand new chassis, let's-- let's just have us stay focused on the powertrain, have other players staying focused on the autonomous vehicle side of things. And then you can have a lot of players coming to market to really make a huge step forward here.

JULIE HYMAN: Thomas, thanks so much for being here. Thomas Healy is the CEO of Hyliion. Appreciate your time.