Thomas Healy, the founder and CEO of Hyliion (NYSE:HYLN), believes that as the trucking industry moves into an electric-powered future, the best way forward involves using natural gas to generate the electricity itself.
“It’s taking the best of both worlds.” Healy said during the FreightWaves LIVE @HOME virtual conference on Thursday. Healy delivered a keynote address and took questions from attendees, covering everything from Hyliion’s drive trains to refilling times to the implications of the presidential election.
The CEO spoke weeks after Austin, Texas-based Hyliion went public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger, making the 28-year-old the youngest self-made billionaire in the U.S.
He sought to differentiate Hyliion and its technology from competitors in the electric truck space, including the fully electric Tesla Semi and the hydrogen-electric trucks of Nicola. With its forthcoming Hypertruck ERX, Hyliion is focusing on adapting existing trucks into electric vehicles that use natural gas to charge the batteries.
“If you look at the global shift toward electrification, the part that needs to be changed on the vehicle is the powertrain. You don’t need to change the whole chassis,” Healy said.
“We’re just going after the area that needs to be revolutionized, not the whole vehicle,” he added.
Key to Hyliion’s approach: its use of natural gas to power the batteries. It allows the converted trucks to realize the higher performance of electric vehicles while harnessing an existing infrastructure of filling stations, including a growing number of ones that offer renewable natural gas (RNG), sourced from existing polluters.
RNG, Healy noted, has the potential to be a more environmentally friendly fuel source than pure electric and hydrogen-electric since a truck running on it can potentially have a negative carbon footprint.
And above all, fleets converted to Hyliion’s powertrains will enjoy a lower operating cost than those using hydrogen-electric or fully electric trucks when all the costs are factored in, including infrastructure. Plus, he noted that filling a Hyliion-converted truck with natural gas will take about 10 minutes.
“It’s about the same as diesel,” he said.
Healy also voiced optimism that RNG has a bright future in the U.S. regardless of whether Joe Biden or President Donald Trump ultimately prevails in the election.
“I think RNG can thrive under either administration,” Healy said. “I don’t think it’s one political party this works or doesn’t work.”