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Hyliion CEO: ‘We’re going after the commercial vehicle space’

Hyliion CEO Thomas Healy joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to break down the company’s public debut.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: I want to bring your attention to a company that we recently profiled on the show, Austin-based electric vehicle truck maker Hyliion officially closing its listing process via SPAC on Friday to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Unlike Tesla, the company plans to sell fully electric semi vehicles here. That's what Tesla's trying to do. Hyliion is taking a different approach here, looking to retrofit existing trucks with its eAxle hybrid bolt on drive train. And in the debut here as we see shares trade now on the NYSE, CEO Thomas Healy, his stake is worth more than $1.4 billion, making him one of the world's youngest self-made billionaires, and at 1.4 billion, worth just about 1.4 billion more than yours truly.

And joining us now for more on that company with us is the CEO of highly, Thomas Healy. And Thomas, congrats, man, on everything getting through here. Now, it's official. Of course, I mean, you talked about it a couple of weeks ago, your company is looking to do something very different than what Tesla is trying to do, something very different than what Nikola is trying to do. So talk to me about what makes Hyliion so different than your competitors out there now and how you feel about being out now as a public company.

THOMAS HEALY: So we're here today in front of the New York Stock Exchange. We just got a chance to ring the opening bell. We've got some of our trucks parked out front here. One of our customers, in particular, Wegmans, actually brought their truck here to showcase today, so it's a surreal day. But, you know, to go into your question about you know what's the difference between fully electric and hydrogen fuel cell, right? I mean, what's going on in this industry is that electrification is coming, and fleets know that electrification is the way of the future, but they're trying to figure out what product is going to be right for them.

You have Tesla's fully electric plug-in truck, you have Nikola's hydrogen fuel cell truck, and then you have Hyliion's fully electric range extender with natural gas onboard to power the vehicle. And so that's really the differentiator is where do we get the electricity from to recharge the batteries. And for fleets, it all comes down to cost, emissions and infrastructure to refuel the vehicle, and that's how they make their choice of what technology they're going to purchase. And in each one of those categories, we're leading the charge in terms of our powertrain being the easiest to adopt.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and you've been pretty honest about, you know, how well this has gone for you guys here, because we're talking about I guess the excitement around the EV opportunity here, specifically when it comes to trucking. Obviously, that dynamic has shifted a bit since we last spoke when you think about what's happened at Nikola and the exit there of CEO Trevor Milton and what he had to say about your company as well. We talked about this tweet last time. I just to read it one more time. He was talking about Hyliion there. He said, "A few have asked me about Hyliion. I don't believe that anything with emissions will survive, regardless if carbon neutral. Most states will mandate zero emission. You'll need their own chassis as OEMs will circumvent them. Retrofit won't work. Happy to advise them free."

Of course, since then and since I asked you about it, he's exited the company, and there's the SEC investigation into Nikola. And you defended that stance by saying that it's going to be more important to shift towards a compressed renewable natural gas there as opposed to hydrogen fuel cells that he was working on. So talk to me again about after everything your response to that and why you still think clearly Hyliion might be doing things in a better direction than Nikola?

THOMAS HEALY: Yeah, so we're able to leverage renewable natural gas and take that fuel on the vehicle and convert that into electricity to recharge the batteries as we're going. Now, the unique thing with renewable natural gas is it's a process of capturing methane that would normally just come off of landfills and dairy farms and be polluted into the atmosphere. And so what we're doing is we're taking that pollution and actually driving it into the vehicles in order to fuel the vehicles.

So we're basically taking what was pollution, using that as a fuel now, and so it actually allows us to have a net carbon negative or below zero emissions profile for our trucks. And so for a fleet, that means that, you know, if you go drive your truck, it's actually cleaner for the environment than not driving your truck. And that's where we really see our technology shining, because it offers the fleets to offset some of the other emissions that come from their business and truly achieve a zero emission profile for their company.

ZACK GUZMAN: When you think about, you know, you've noted the positive side of following Nikola coming out as a SPAC, and there was a lot of attention around that when we saw shares spike, excitement in the EV space. Timing it around that went well for you guys in your own SPACE, but talk to you about how difficult it might be to convince investors that what you're doing is real when we see so many questions now being posed to Nikola. I mean, have you seen it as a challenge and maybe some doubts now coming when it comes to even Tesla and kind of the projections that Elon Musk has put out for that technology getting to where it needs to be, how are you proving that Hyliion is where it wants to be as you guys now come out as a public company?

THOMAS HEALY: Yeah, well, I hope, you know, everyone sees that our technology truly is real. I mean, one of the trucks we have here is a Wegmans truck. We were just talking with Wegmans earlier today, and they were saying that that truck is performing better than any diesel truck in their fleet, right? So this technology is truly real. It's deployed. We have over two million miles on it, and I think that's one of the big differentiators for us is we've had that experience of deploying technology to fleets. But what we have seen shift in the industry over the last few weeks here is the customers we're engaging with, they really want to dive into a little bit deeper of a diligence or a layer of detail than they were before, right?

And so, you know, we've actually found that's great for us, because when you look at, you know, cost of our operation as well as emissions from the truck and the ability that we're-- or the effect that we're using over 700 already existing natural gas stations that are out there to refuel our trucks, that, you know, for fleets, that resonates, because it's easy for them to understand how they can deploy this in their fleet without having to go spend, you know, $12 billion on infrastructure if you want to set up the same amount of hydrogen infrastructure that there is already for natural gas. And so that's, you know, that's what we've seen is fleets willing to dive in a little bit deeper, but we've actually found that to be a positive for us.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, when you talk about the positives there, obviously, you guys forecast some pretty impressive growth if the technology does catch on with those existing companies you're talking about here. You forecast $344 million in 2022, up beyond one billion and '23, up beyond two billion in 2024. So talk to me what piece of the business will be most important you talk about retrofitting trucks as well as your second offering, the HyperTruck ERX, with that technology you were discussing there. What does the breakdown look like, and what proof have you gotten beyond the orders you're discussing here to kind of show that there is this demand that lines up with the forecast?

THOMAS HEALY: Yeah, so the HyperTruck is a full power train for the vehicle, right? So you no longer need your diesel engine, and so that is a more expensive product. That's where we do see the majority of our revenue in out years coming from versus the hybrid is an add on to existing trucks, either can be retrofitted or installed on brand new trucks. And, you know, what's been really interesting is we've laid out this forecast is that, you know, we're going after the commercial vehicle space, which is very different than the passenger car space. And so we've found that, you know, what's really critical for us is that we build strong relationships with fleets and deploy our technology in their trucking operations, have them experience it firsthand, and then have them come back in place repeat orders.

And what's interesting with this industry is that these fleet operators that we speak with, they operate hundreds if not thousands of vehicles. And so once you convince them that our technology is the right one for their fleet, then you have this recurring revenue stream, because, you know, anytime they go buy new trucks, they're buying it with your powertrain in it. And so it's a much easier adoption into the commercial vehicle space than when you compare it to the passenger car space.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and lastly, I mean, I don't know what it was about the archetype here, maybe it was the example set by Elon Musk and what Tesla and his kind of character over there. Trevor Milton, I guess was similar in using Twitter as a tool to come out and stir up investor confidence and kind of that persona. You seem to be, I mean, just to wrap this up, but on a personal level, you're 28 years old. You're now one of the youngest CEOs here, as I said, at $1.4 billion in terms of your worth in the company. Do you plan on kind of being the upfront face of this company in the same way that we've seen Elon Musk and Milton in the past? I mean, how has it changed you personally in your goal to get the company's goals achieved, and what should we expect from Thomas Healy?

THOMAS HEALY: Yeah, so up to this point, we've been pretty quiet on social media. I think when I logged into my Twitter account, I had posted, you know, a couple of tweets in the last couple of years, so I have not been super active on it. But we have told our followers that we are going to start posting more. We already have started sharing more, and, you know, the way we look at it is we're on an amazing journey here. There's a lot of really exciting things going on. We've got a lot of great customer discussions underway, and we want, you know, our investors and our viewers to be following along this journey with us and truly be a part of it, and so we will be sharing more. We're not going to be, you know, posting multiple times every day, you know, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We're not going to be doing that, but we will be sharing more as we want people to be along this journey with us.