Interview with Craig Knight, CEO Hyzon Motors: “The global hydrogen revolution for commercial vehicles is here, and Hyzon Motors is at the vanguard”
May 29, 2021
It was 2003 when Craig Knight, George Gu and Gary Robb set out on a mission to build the world’s first profitable fuel cell company. Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies was established in Singapore that year, and has a founding story fuelled with curiosity, ambition and willingness to move forward in one of the most difficult technology spaces.
Technology-agnostic and commercially focused, Horizon’s ambition was to achieve sustainable decarbonisation targets without relying on government subsidies, billions of dollars of private capital, and to create a profitable fuel cell company, in an industry that had not seen a profit in 30 years, and was still quite far from breaking through at the time.
One of Horizon’s main success factors was to start commercialisation with small and simple products that could function on tiny amounts of hydrogen to reduce logistics barriers, while preparing for larger and more complex products. During the past 18 years of Horizon’s journey, the company has successfully scaled up its fuel cell stack capability alongside innovations in stack materials and hydrogen storage, all the way through to heavy vehicle integration expertise.
Now the team behind Horizon are applying their fuel cell IP in the mobility sector through Hyzon Motors, with the aim of producing the world’s most powerful yet cleanest heavy vehicles. Hyzon Motors was established in 2020 as a spin off from Horizon and is a global supplier of hydrogen fuel cell-powered commercial vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks, buses and coaches.
“With production facilities in North America, Europe and Asia, we expect to deliver several thousand fuel cell trucks and buses over the next three years. By the end of 2025, our expected turn-key capacity will be more than 40,000 fuel cell vehicles annually,” Craig Knight, CEO of Hyzon Motors told H2 View.
“In 2020, we expanded existing operations by opening our new US headquarters and engineering centre at the former General Motors fuel cell facility in Honeoye Falls, New York. We also launched our European manufacturing plant in the Dutch city of Groningen with joint venture partner Holthausen Clean Technology.
“This was followed by our announcement earlier this year of our plans to build the largest fuel cell membrane electrode assembly (MEA) production line for commercial vehicles in the US at our new Hyzon Innovation Center located in Bolingbrook, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.
“We see a global opportunity for substantial uptake of heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles and look forward to empowering the growing hydrogen ecosystem and decarbonising heavy road transport.”
Backed by parent company Horizon’s 18 years of experience in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology, Hyzon Motors has moved quickly in the past 12 months in a bid to capitalise on the shift by many of the world’s industries as they get serious about decarbonising their operations.
“Deliveries of Hyzon fuel cell-powered heavy trucks to customers in Europe and North America will occur this year, well ahead of our competitors, and our sales pipeline is proof that the world is truly recognising the need to develop innovative solutions to mitigate climate change and accelerate efforts to move the world economy down the path to net-zero emissions,” Knight said.
To build upon this momentum and support further company growth, in February, Hyzon and Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corporation (NASDAQ:DCRB) announced a definitive agreement for a business combination that would result in Hyzon becoming a publicly listed company.
“We have positioned ourselves as a differentiated, pure-play, independent mobility company with an exclusive focus on hydrogen in the commercial vehicle market,” Knight said.
“With our technology advantage developed over almost two decades, we believe we are in a strong position to lead the zero-emission, fleet-based, commercial transport space at competitive performance against both traditional fuel sources and other alternative vehicle power sources.
“We believe the global hydrogen revolution for commercial vehicles is now and already underway, and Hyzon is at the vanguard.”
Hydrogen fuel cell trucks need to be as competitive as diesel trucks and hydrogen needs to be as cheap as diesel. Knight told H2 View Hyzon hopes to achieve this in five to seven years.
“It will be a challenge, but we are tackling this through specific initiatives such as establishing our MEA production line in Chicago,” he said.
“The MEA is the critical component of a fuel cell and accounts for about 70% of the cost of a fuel cell stack. By scaling production, we will bring these costs down and in turn, improve the economic viability of fuel cell vehicles.
“The mandate for governments, companies and society to decarbonise is providing a steady tailwind for the adoption of hydrogen mobility worldwide including heavy-duty trucks. When choosing zero-emission trucks, operators should not be forced to compromise on payload or driving range, and only hydrogen can ensure that is the case.
“Given this, as hydrogen is increasingly embraced by industry as a superior option in many applications, we expect costs of the technology to fall rapidly.”
Hyzon wants to be among the first companies to supply customers with a hydrogen fuel cell truck at total cost of ownership (TCO) parity with diesel-powered counterparts in Europe.
“In combination with incentives available in Europe, we expect to help customers achieve TCO parity through our alliance with multiple hydrogen infrastructure partners,” Knight said.
“Given the momentum behind hydrogen across Europe, this region is anticipated to lead the roll-out of hydrogen mobility worldwide. Through our manufacturing base in Groningen, The Netherlands, we aim to play a significant role in Europe’s transition to hydrogen.”
Whilst Europe might be tipped to lead the roll-out of hydrogen mobility worldwide, the momentum behind hydrogen is not limited to Europe, hydrogen is emerging as a crucial component of the future energy landscape in other regions too.
“This is because it offers the only viable green solution for high-utilisation commercial mobility. The global heavy transport and equipment sector is fast becoming a key target for the implementation of clean energy alternatives,” Knight said.
“The number of countries cementing and then enhancing their national hydrogen strategies expands almost weekly, and we are extremely encouraged by both investor and public interest in the hydrogen economy.
“While we already have around 500 buses and trucks on the road with our fuel cells today, we expect the global appetite for zero-emission heavy vehicles to grow exponentially and so we believe we are well placed to serve this demand.”
‘Collaboration is crucial’
To see its goals come to fruition, Hyzon is working in partnership with market-leading suppliers and manufacturers, and the fuel cell truck maker also has commercial relationships with retailers, consumer goods companies, natural resource firms and governments. One such partnership is with Hiringa Energy in New Zealand, where the two firms are aiming to deploy 1,500 hydrogen trucks by 2026 – and the first batch could be on the road by the end of 2021.
“We are very excited about our partnership with Hiringa with their model demonstrating that the ‘chicken and egg’ problem facing the hydrogen sector can be overcome by addressing the supply and demand side for hydrogen in parallel,” Knight enthused.
“Hyzon plans to deliver 1,500 trucks to New Zealand by 2026, with Hiringa to build a green hydrogen refuelling network for vehicle fuel supply, to establish New Zealand as the global benchmark in fuel cell-powered logistics.
“Our trucks will be powered by green hydrogen supplied through Hiringa’s nationwide refuelling infrastructure. The network is expected to commence refuelling operations in 2021, expanding to eight hydrogen stations across New Zealand’s North and South Islands in 2022, servicing 100% of the North Island and 82% of the South Island’s heavy freight routes.
“The Hyzon FCEV trucks are designed to meet New Zealand road requirements and the demands of heavy freight applications. The trucks will be built in a 6×4 configuration, will include a sleeper cab option and will have a gross combination mass of 58 metric tonnes and range of 680km.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, Hyzon is working with AI-enabled autonomous mobility company Aidrivers to deploy the world’s first fully autonomous fuel cell trucks in ports.
“Together, we will develop an integrated vehicle platform to produce autonomous zero-emission trucks, buses and coaches for off-road industrial mobility operations,” Knight highlighted.
“Hyzon and Aidrivers will jointly collaborate on the design, manufacture and delivery of autonomous-drive hydrogen-powered trucks, buses and coaches with an initial focus on ports in the Asia-Pacific region as end-users. The first trial of a fully autonomous hydrogen fuel-cell powered truck is expected within the next 12 months, with the first fleet of operational trucks to be deployed in 2022.
“We are highly enthusiastic about combining two of the most innovative aspects of mobility – zero-emission fuel and autonomous driving. We believe that together these technologies will create a safer, smarter and cleaner solution for ports, logistics, airports and other industrial operators around the world.”
Most recently, Hyzon announced the signing of a deal with NEOM for the development of a vehicle assembly facility within NEOM city, a $500bn futuristic mega-city powered by renewable energy in the Saudi Arabian desert.
“We aim to be at the forefront of providing heavy duty commercial fleet vehicles into NEOM which would act as a showcase to the wider Kingdom and beyond,” Knight said.
“Over the next 18 months we will work with NEOM and our local partner, Modern Group, to finalise plans for the new regional assembly facility, with an anticipated annual capacity to assemble up to 10,000 vehicles. We expect further announcements soon as we target the Gulf Cooperation Council markets in the Middle East.”
“Building out hydrogen mobility technology and assets is a long game and requires significant partnerships. No one entity can act alone and so collaboration is critical part of the Hyzon business model,” Knight told H2 View.
It was on this note that Hyzon launched the Hyzon Zero Carbon Alliance in April, bringing together a collective of companies committed to a cleaner transport future. Born from the need to create global change in heavy-duty mobility, Alliance members are progressive organisations from across the value chain contributing to the growing momentum behind hydrogen and catalysing the adoption of hydrogen heavy vehicles.
Ark Energy (a subsidiary of Korea Zinc), AXA, Bank of America, Hiringa Energy, Modern Group, NEOM, Raven SR, ReCarbon and Total, along with Hyzon, will work collaboratively as the first members of the Alliance to drive the development of hydrogen mobility supply chains globally.
“Hyzon is working hard to contribute to the escalating adoption of hydrogen vehicles worldwide and we look forward to a bright future ahead as we accelerate the energy transition through hydrogen commercial mobility,” Knight said.
“One of the greatest challenges faced by hydrogen mobility in its efforts to scale has been aligning the supply of hydrogen with the demand for vehicles. By bringing together fleet operators with leading hydrogen players, this is exactly what the Alliance and Hyzon strives to overcome.”
And you can find out more about the Hyzon Zero Carbon Alliance in an interview with Claire Johnson, Head of the Alliance, to be published next Thursday (June 3).
This article includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the U.S. Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act. All statements, other than statements of present or historical fact included in this article, including those regarding Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corporation’s (DCRB) proposed acquisition of the Company and DCRB’s ability to consummate the transaction, are forward-looking statements. When used in this article, the words “could,” “should,” “will,” “may,” “believe,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “estimate,” “expect,” “project,” the negative of such terms and other similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain such identifying words. These forward-looking statements are based on management’s current expectations and assumptions about future events and are based on currently available information as to the outcome and timing of future events. Except as otherwise required by applicable law, DCRB and the Company disclaim any duty to update any forward looking statements, all of which are expressly qualified by the statements in this section, to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this article.
DCRB and the Company caution you that these forward-looking statements are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, most of which are difficult to predict and many of which are beyond the control of either DCRB or the Company, including risks and uncertainties described in the “Risk Factors” section of Exhibit 99.3 of DCRB’s Current Report on Form 8-K filed with the SEC on February 9, 2021, the “Risk Factors” section of DCRB’s preliminary proxy statement on Schedule 14A filed with the SEC on March 17, 2021, as amended on May 14, 2021, and other documents filed by DCRB from time to time with the SEC. These filings identify and address other important risks and uncertainties that could cause actual events and results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements, such as risks related to the ability to convert non-binding memoranda of understanding into binding orders or sales (including because of the current or prospective financial resources of the counterparties to Hyzon’s non-binding memoranda of understanding and letters of intent), or the ability to identify additional potential customers and convert them to paying customers. Hyzon gives no assurance that Hyzon will achieve its expectations.
Additional information about Hyzon’s proposed business transaction and where to find it
In connection with the proposed business combination, Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corporation (“DCRB”) initially filed a proxy statement with the SEC on March 17, 2021, as amended on May 14, 2021, and certain other related documents, to be used at the meeting of stockholders of DCRB to approve the proposed business combination. INVESTORS AND SECURITY HOLDERS OF DCRB ARE URGED TO READ THE PROXY STATEMENT, ANY AMENDMENTS THERETO AND OTHER RELEVANT DOCUMENTS THAT WILL BE FILED WITH THE SEC CAREFULLY AND IN THEIR ENTIRETY WHEN THEY BECOME AVAILABLE BECAUSE THEY CONTAIN AND WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT HYZON, DCRB AND THE BUSINESS COMBINATION. The definitive proxy statement will be mailed to stockholders of DCRB as of a record date to be established for voting on the proposed business combination. Investors and security holders will also be able to obtain copies of the proxy statement and other documents containing important information about each of the companies once such documents are filed with the SEC, without charge, at the SEC’s web site at www.sec.gov,or by directing a request to DCRB.