The past year has been a busy one for Hyliion. The manufacturer of electric-hybrid systems for Class 8 vehicles received a sizable investment from Dana Corp. in March and has opened a new production facility near its headquarters in Austin, TX.

Yet founder and CEO Thomas Healy said Hyliion has spent much of 2019 with “heads down,” focused on fleet testing and “grinding through the actual rollout of the technology.”

Healy told Fleet Owner in a recent interview that 2020 is shaping up to be a crucial year for the company. The next 12 months are likely to include a capital infusion to help ramp up production volumes and the rollout of a demonstration vehicle to showcase existing and advanced technologies it has been developing.

These are the next steps in a journey that started in 2015, when Healy launched the company in Pittsburgh to develop the electric-hybrid systems. The company started with a trailer-based product, but that morphed into a current tractor system, known as the 6X4HE. It can be installed on new trucks or retrofitted on existing models, essentially turning a traditional 6×2 into a 6×4 hybrid.

Dana CEO James Kamsickas told Fleet Owner he views the Hyliion solution as an exciting “intermediate step” on the path to the electrification of the longhaul trucking sector.

Even as Dana remains “energy-source agnostic” and rapidly advances efforts to offer a complete electrification system, Kamsickas said in an interview at the North American Commercial Vehicle (NACV) Show that it will still be a while before it makes sense in many markets.

As an example, he said it would be impossible to travel from Atlanta, where NACV took place, to New York in a fully electric vehicle because of a lack of charging infrastructure.

Healy said over the next 10 years, hybrid systems will prove to be the “right solution for longhaul trucking,” as development of fully electric trucks and related infrastructure continues.

He added the rugged testing with fleets has been an educational experience. Small glitches with gaskets and other items have been discovered and addressed, Healy said.

In mid-December, the North American Council on Freight Efficiency (NACFE) issued its latest confidence report on the viability of Classes 7-8 electric, hybrid and alternative fuel tractors.

In looking at hybrids, which include fuel cells, diesel electric, and other variations, NACFE found “a well-engineered and manufactured hybrid vehicle can be equivalent to or better than an equivalent [internal combustion engine] vehicle in terms of uptime, maintenance, and repair, based on recent years of automotive experience with large volumes of mature production systems.”

The report stated that interest in using “a smaller diesel to drive an on-board generator to power electric batteries and motors offers the opportunity to use the existing extensive diesel fueling infrastructure while potentially reducing vehicle emissions.”

NACFE added it was not yet able to find production level Classes 7-8 tractor equipment with diesel hybrids.

That is something Hyliion hopes to change in the near future.