Stock in the hybrid and electric heavy-duty truck technology company
spiked Thursday after a surprise announcement about new EV battery technology. The next-generation tech itself is good news, but the announcement also demonstrated to nervous investors that Hyliion can be a long-term winner in vehicle electrification even if hydrogen fuel cells or all-battery electric trucks end up displacing its current hybrid offerings.
(ticker: HYLN) announced a battery system using lithium-titanate-oxide technology from
(6502. Japan), rather than the more common lithium-ion batteries. LTO has a lithium titanate-based anode instead of a graphite battery anode, among other differences.
LTO batteries offer faster charge times and longer life than some other options, but they cost more and are less energy dense. That means the LTO batteries, essentially, don’t hold as much electricity.
But energy density isn’t everything, and battery users’ needs vary. Hyliion’s LTO technology can get a full charge in eight minutes. With a charge time so short, Hyliion can reduce the size of its battery packs, cutting the battery cost for each vehicle.
An eight-minute charge would seem incredible to any
(TSLA) owner. Electric cars take longer to charge, but that isn’t usually a problem for car owners who plug in vehicles in their garages for the night. Long charge times can be a problem, though, for businesses that use their vehicles as close to 24 hours a day as possible. “We can charge the vehicle while the driver gets a coffee,” Hyliion CEO Thomas Healy tells Barron’s.
Hyliion gets its next-gen batteries to charge ultrafast not only thanks to their chemistry, but also by cooling the battery cells. “The number one issue [with fast charging] is temperature,” says Healy. “We extract heat out of the cells more efficiently.”
Cooling adds cost to the system too, but with a small battery pack enabled by an eight-minute charge, the company’s new powertrain option would be ideal for an application like drayage, where trucks are constantly moving containers short distances around shipping yards, for example. Trucks like that don’t need to have a large, heavy battery that can last 500 miles. They just need to hold enough charge to power the vehicle until a driver needs to take a bathroom or coffee break.
Hyliion expects its LTO battery modules to be ready to ship by the end of this year.
Hyliion shares rose 32% Thursday, and gave back 9% on Friday as the S&P 500 rose 0.5%. Fast-charging tech is great, but it isn’t the only reason for the rise. With the plethora of EV startups popping up, investors are already worried that Hyliion’s disruptive technology might be disrupted. As batteries get better and hydrogen fuel cells make gains, it’s possible hybrid solutions won’t be as popular.
Another Hyliion product, the Hypertruck ERX class 8 semi, uses a natural-gas onboard generator to recharge batteries on the fly. It’s a similar approach to the one that
(LI) takes with its LI ONE electric SUV. Onboard generation enables smaller, lower-cost battery packs. It also reduces the weight of the total powertrain, which is important for long-distance shipping in commercial applications. Shippers want to haul freight, not batteries, after all.
The question some investors have about hybrid solutions like the Hypertruck ERX is, essentially, what happens if batteries and hydrogen get too good? The LTO technology shows Hyliion has its own solutions for such a future.
Healy says that Hyliion can become a battery supplier to other truck makers, in addition to putting its new battery tech in its own vehicles. He also believes batteries will still be a part of many alternative powertrains, even ones using hydrogen fuel…