In 2015, Carnegie Mellon University’s Hyliion entered the DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition (NCEBPC; now known as Cleantech University Prize) with its SMART Suspension System. This technology is an add-on hybrid module for tractor-trailers that captures otherwise wasted energy to reduce fuel consumption by 30%. Using the SMART Suspension System could save companies an average of $29,000 per tractor-trailer per year. Hyliion took the top $50,000 prize at the regional NCEBPC competition run by Rice University. The team went on to compete in the national competition against four other regional finalists and won the first place $50,000 prize.
A lot can happen in three years, so we checked in with Hyliion founder and CEO Thomas Healy to see how things have been since the big win.
What makes your technology unique to the market?
One of the things that immediately differentiates Hyliion from other class 8 electrification solutions is that we are available today. Other products are prototypes or would require major infrastructure development to get off the ground. Hyliion is in production and in the hands of customers right now. We aren’t asking our fleets to reorganize the way they traditionally do business. Our goal is to make adoption of our technology as seamless as possible for immediate results.
Why did you decide to participate in NCEBPC?
The competition offers a very effective platform for young, green companies to get off the ground. It was a natural fit for Hyliion to participate. Even if we didn’t win, we knew the opportunity to present to such a respected group of experts and network with other professionals in clean energy was invaluable.
What happened after you won?
After much celebration, we got back to work. Winning the NCEBPC drove home how great of an impact our technology could make on the world. We’ve always believed in the Hyliion solution, but winning the competition reinforced that other people believed in the impact of this product, too. This gave us a really strong platform from which to build our business.
What specific element of the competition was most beneficial (e.g., prize money, mentorship, entrepreneurship training, networking and contacts)?
All of the elements are beneficial in their own way. Of course, the money was great as young start-up, but the ability to network and connect with likeminded people was hugely important. The goals Hyliion set for itself are ambitious, difficult challenges to overcome. We’re hoping to make the world a better and cleaner place to live. The connections we developed are supporting those goals in a way that’s actually driving results.
How did the competition impact your business?
We regrouped and hit the ground running! The expectations had been set for us, and we now had access to resources we never had before. We were able to draw on a wide variety of experience and fund further development of the system.
What has been the most recent milestone/development?
We released a trial fleet, where potential customers can reserve a truck that they can test on their routes. It’s is a huge leap forward for us as a company. This is an industry with a healthy skepticism about new technology, and I understand why they might doubt the double-digit fuel savings. It’s really important for Hyliion to offer our customers the chance to see the system work in their own operations. It’s also very rewarding for us to see how excited our customers get once they test it out on their routes.
To learn more, visit the Hyliion website.