Hyliion acquires battery supplier, strikes strategic partnership with Toshiba

 The Hyliion hybrid-electric system is designed to capture wasted brake energy and convert it into usable electric power.

The Hyliion hybrid-electric system is designed to capture wasted brake energy and convert it into usable electric power.

Hyliion has been working to transform long-haul trucks into hybrid-electric models for several years now, and today it has taken steps to help secure its pipeline of technology with the acquisition of Gentherm’s battery division and strategic partnerships with Toshiba and Dana Corp.

Hyliion has been using Gentherm battery systems in its hybrid system, along with Toshiba battery-cell technology and Dana cooling technology. Today’s news solidifies relationships with those suppliers.

“Batteries are a critical component of any hybrid vehicle. The acquisition provides us with control over the complete battery management supply chain from manufacturing and packaging to software development,” said Thomas Healy, founder and CEO of Hyliion. “This is a huge strategic advantage for us.”

Gentherm’s battery division team has joined Hyliion, which will sell its battery management solution to others for various applications, the company said.

“We’re thrilled to welcome the Gentherm team to Hyliion. The battery technology they created is stellar and gives us a clear strategic advantage. They’re exceptionally talented, a great culture fit and already an invaluable asset to the company,” said Healy.

In 2016, Hyllion introduced a hybrid-electric regenerative braking system for trailers. Last fall, the company shifted into production of a similar product for tractors. Healy previously told FreightWaves the concept of electric long-haul trucks traveling 600 miles in a day are not practical at this time but adding hybrid technology to them could reduce fuel usage. The company’s 6x4HE electric hybrid product achieves a 30% reduction in fuel use due to three factors. Fifteen percent is achieved through the hybrid technology, 12% from the system’s APU, and 3% from tractor aerodynamics. The Hyliion system comes with tractor aerodynamic panels from FlowBelow.

The system electrifies the real axle of a tandem axle tractor, collecting kinetic energy each time the vehicle brakes and sending that stored power into a battery pack for later use or to the engine for immediate use. The idea that a long-haul truck doesn’t brake enough to provide value for such a system is a misnomer, Healy explained.

“Even if you are on cruise control, the cruise control will not let you speed, so it will apply the brakes, and then speed up,” he said.

The system features a predictive terrain algorithm that uses maps to monitor the truck’s position relative to terrain. Should the system identify a downslope up ahead (it monitors up to 10 miles), and the battery is currently full, it will direct energy to the engine to reduce fuel usage knowing that it will recover that energy on the downslope.

The 6x4HE system utilizes the Gentherm battery system. It helps the Hyliion 6x4HE capture wasted energy when traveling downhill and applies that power when traveling uphill to keep the engine in its most efficient operating range. 

“The path to fully electrified long-haul fleets has many challenges. Long haul semi-trucks average 600 miles a day. Electric semi-trucks, including Tesla’s, are restricted by 300 to 500 miles on a single charge,” said Healy. “Unless we regrid the entire country to accommodate power consumption with grids as large as entire cities, a hybrid solution is the only answer that makes sense for long hauls.”

The strategic partnership with Toshiba will continue a relationship that has seen Toshiba supply battery cell technology to Hyliion, which packages Toshiba’s high-caliber, high-class li-ion cells and adds cooling and battery management systems. Hyliion also utilizes Dana’s cooling technology to help improve the thermal management of the batteries.

“By cost effectively transforming any semi-truck into a hybrid electric, Hyliion is providing the trucking industry a unique opportunity to capitalize on the vehicle electrification trend," said Darel Reed, National Sales Manager at Toshiba. "We're proud to be part of Hyliion's breakthrough technology and innovation and look forward to sharing in the company's ongoing success."