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As Electric Truck Startup Hyliion Goes Public, Founder Is Set To Be America’s Youngest Self-made Billionaire

Nigeria Student Forum / General Discussion / As Electric Truck Startup Hyliion Goes Public, Founder Is Set To Be America’s Youngest Self-made Billionaire

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Sani Ibrahim
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa,University
Agricultural economics and extension
100Level, Nigeria.
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Thomas Healy, CEO of Hyliion. Courtesy Hyliion
If all goes according to plan , Thomas Healy, 28, will become
America’s youngest self-made billionaire next week when
shareholders of publicly traded Tortoise Acquisition Group
vote September 28 to acquire Hyliion, the Austin-based heavy-
duty electric truck company that Healy founded. After that, the
ticker symbol will change from SHLL to HYLN, and the new
company will get $560 million cash with which to build out
Healy’s vision for the future of electrified heavy duty trucks.
Spokespeople for Tortoise, a special acquisition corp launched
in 2018, insist that shares of SHLL, at $42 today (up fourfold
since June), are trading on a “pro forma” basis — as if the deal
were already done. Assuming this is a fait accompli , and given
161.6 million pro forma shares outstanding, the implied equity
market cap of the new Hyliion comes to an impressive $6.7
billion. According to SEC filings , Healy will be the biggest
shareholder, with 22.9% of the company, or 34.97 million
shares, worth nearly $1.5 billion.
He may not be as slick as the other billionaire electric truck
impresarios Elon Musk or Nikola’s disgraced former CEO
Trevor Milton , but Healy appears to already have one up on
both Tesla and Nikola when it comes to getting revolutionary
tech onto the road. There are already 20 trucks operating with
Hyliion’s electric powertrains, built via ventures with Dana
Corp. and Volvo. Tesla said this year it was delaying
production of its Semi until 2021. Shares in Nikola meanwhile
have collapsed from the $70s to less than $20 amid fraud
allegations and the departure of Milton.
Which leaves Healy as the great new hope for electrifying
Class 8, long-haul semi trucks. How’d he do it? “I’m a
gearhead, I grew up racing,” says Healy, who competed as a
teenager at a national level, racing cars and go-karts. He
learned the mechanics behind the machines, and began
devising electric drivetrains in his dorm room at Carnegie
Mellon, where he was also starting punter for the CMU Tartans
football team. Studying mechanical engineering, Healy
developed 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.
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. Naturally, the system also captures power
via regenerative braking, which given the mass of a semi-truck
can be substantial — batteries have to be able to absorb 5
kilowatthours of power from braking on a steep hill, then turn
around and feed that power back to the drivetrain during
acceleration. In 2017 Forbes named Healy as a finalist in our
annual 30 Under 30 project.
Healy’s e-axle evolved into a complete drivetrain system that
Hyliion calls the Hypertruck ERX. Replacing the diesel engine is
a bank of electric batteries, which are charged via onboard
generators that run on tanks of compressed natural gas.
Healy’s approach contrasts with the field’s first movers,
including Tesla and its all-electric, battery-centric approach,
as well as Nikola, which aims to power its batteries using
hydrogen fuel cells. Why reinvent the wheel, he says, when a
CNG-battery hybrid could take advantage of existing filling
stations, and avoid hours of battery recharge time?
Furthermore, the combo of a CNG generator plus a modest
load of batteries gives the truck long range without having to
compensate for massive battery weight. Using CNG instead of
diesel reduces carbon emissions roughly 25%.
Healy says he decided early on there was no upside in setting
out to design an all-new truck from the ground up. “Do you
want engineers designing the hinge or the latch or do you
want them designing the battery management system and the
algorithm.” Existing truck makers 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, 28.
There are already trucks that run on compressed natural gas
of course, but they’re for lighter loads, and underpowered
relative to Class 8 long-haul semi-trailers. Hyliion’s powertrain
offers more horsepower and torque and promises 0-60 mph in
20 seconds while hauling 80,000 lbs.
Automotive parts giant Dana Inc. 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.
Today truck makers install engines from Cummins and
transmissions from Allison. Hyliion hopes to someday join that
echelon. First large deliveries of the Hypertruck ERX could
come in 2021.
Vincent Cubbage, CEO of TortoiseCorp, picked through 200
startups while looking for one to back with the special purpose
acquisition company (or SPAC) his team set up in 2018. “We
saw a lot of aspirational business plans… so far away from
commercial,” he says. A Tortoise private equity fund will end
up with 8.7% of Hyliion, or 12 million shares, worth $540
million as of today. Other big winners include Howard Jenkins ,
of the billionaire Publix supermarket fortune, whose Axioma
Ventures holds about 13% of the pro forma Hyliion equity,
worth about $700 million. Board members include Andy Card ,
former chief of staff for George W. Bush and ontime CEO of
the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Once the deal is finalized and the ticker symbol changes, more
Hyliion shares will hit the market, roughly double the 23 million
share float today. Meanwhile, total shares outstanding will
swell to 161 million. At $42.12 per share today (up fourfold
since June) that implies a market cap of $6.7 billion, and an
implied fortune of roughly $1.5 billion for Healy. Hyliion will
get $560 million of cash in the deal, to invest in rolling out
product.
He joins some illustrious company among the nation’s
youngest self-made billionaires; John Collison , cofounder of
Stripe, and Evan Spiegel of Snapchat are both 30. And then
there’s the curious case of makeup mogul Kylie Jenner, who at
age 22 has been on and off our list in the past year. Recall that
Mark Zuckerberg vaulted to that status at age 23 with
Facebook.
With his shares subject to lockup, Healy can’t sell shares for at
least two years. Investors will be expecting a lot from him in
that time. Hyliion in SEC filings says it anticipates $8 million in
revenue in 2021, growing to $344 million in 2022 and $1 billion
in 2023, with profits to follow. Ryan Laskey, SVP of
commercial vehicle drive systems at Dana, says he’s been
impressed at Healy’s commercial focus. “He gives the
customer something they don't even know they want yet.”

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