How Hyliion's Under-30 CEO Aims To Compete With Tesla And Nikola In The Electric-Powered Big Rig Revolution

www.forbes.com
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Thomas Healy was selected to the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30.
Thomas Healy, CEO of Hyliion. Courtesy Hyliion

When Thomas Healy was selected for the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2017 his startup Hyliion was still in the early stages of developing an innovation he called the "e-axle" — that's an electrified axle, powered by lithium ion batteries, that could be incorporated into the drivetrain of a traditional Class 8, long-haul truck.

Healy saw the e-axle as a hybrid bolt-on solution for bringing electric power to the world of long-haul trucking. The e-axle could be retrofitted onto old trucks, or built into new ones. The benefits were clear — the e-axle would provide a helping hand, adding power and torque that allowed the diesel block to work more efficiently, improving fuel mileage and lowering emissions, while also capturing power via regenerative braking.

Automotive parts giant Dana Inc. was intrigued, and in March 2019 made an equity investment into Hyliion, and together they are manufacturing and marketing the device to Dana's slate of customers, including truck giants Volvo, Navistar and Peterbilt.

It's a pointedly different approach to the electrification of heavy duty trucks than that pursued by investor darlings Tesla TSLA and Nikola, which have sought to design an all-new truck from the ground up. Healy says he decided early on there was no need to try to do it better than existing truck makers who already had big factories and happy customers. "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," says Healy, 29.

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