With moe and more interest in hydrogen as the future fuel for long distance and heavy duty trucks and buses, its been revealed that co-founder of US autonomous driving company TuSimple, Mo Chen, has started a new company called Hydron, which he claims will bring hydrogen-powered heavy duty trucks equipped with Level 4 autonomous driving technology to market.
At this point it seems that Hydron is a side hustle and a future play for the enterprising Chen, who is a Canadian entrepreneur, with a reputation for knowing the industry, the players, the competition and exactly what is needed to make a truck autonomous-ready based , which has been born out by his experience and success with TuSimple.
Chen is the CEO of Hydron, which is privately owned and not officially affiliated with TuSimple.
“Hydron will be an original equipment manufacturer and will develop, manufacture, and sell a portfolio of autonomous-ready trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells,” Chen told US media recently.
Chen is proposing an ambitious target for his new hydrogen powered truck brand flagging that they will be in production in a little over two years from now.
“Our goal will be to begin production of our first-generation truck in Q3 of 2024, and they will come with the needed set of sensors, computing units and redundant actuators to meet Level 4 autonomous driving requirements,” Chen said.
“Between now and then our focus will be on fundraising, continuing to attract top talent and building our manufacturing facility,” he added.
Chen said that Hydron’s manufacturing facility will be located in North America to address what the company referred to as “U.S. supply chain challenges.”
“Hydron will have a direct-to-customer sales model where the majority of the order transaction is completed online,” the Canadian entrepreneur preferred.
Chen says that aspirations for Hydron include eventually marketing them in Europe and the Middle East.
While Hydron does not currently manufacture hydrogen, he said, it does plan to work with leading hydrogen suppliers to become a provider of hydrogen refueling infrastructure in key freight corridors.
Chen said the U.S. Department of Energy’s recently announced efforts, together with its academic and industry partners, to bring clean hydrogen to the forefront of alternative fuels could only help.
“I am here today to tell you we are really on the cusp of hydrogen’s big moment, and this administration is really gearing up to make the most of it,” Department of Energy, secretary Jennifer Granholm said a few days before Hydron’s announcement.
The US Department of Energy set an ultimate goal, through its ‘Hydrogen Earthshot’ project, to slash the cost of clean hydrogen at the point of production by 80 per cent, to deliver a nominal price of around $1 per kilogram in the next ten years.
Granholm also announced her Department issued its notice of intent to provide $US8.5 billion ($AUD12.1 bilion) for the development of at least four clean hydrogen hubs across the USA.
“We see the Department of Energy’s support for hydrogen as a huge positive that will benefit both the country, and the industry,” Chen said.
For all of that, Hydron appears to have assigned itself an arduous task.
Established U.S. truck makers including Daimler, Paccar, Volvo Group and Navistar(Traton) between them hold better than 90 per cent of the U.S. Heavy Duty (Class 8) truck market, are all pursuing autonomous truck technology partnerships and preparing to offer those trucks under their respective brands, as well as taking their own early steps toward a hydrogen fuel market.
Along with the ruling class of established brands there is also Nikola, which is now a publicly listed company, and now has a brand new assembly plant in Arizona as well as a manufacturing joint venture in Europe with Iveco, a service and dealership network, its first battery-electric vehicles on the road and plans well underway for heavy-duty hydrogen-powered trucks and fuelling infrastructure.
It remains to the seen if Chen’s, reputation and knowledge of the truck industry, and his experience with successfully establishing TuSimple can be parlayed into making Hydron a success in a tough environment.
TuSimple went public in 2021 raising $1.3 billion through a traditional initial pubic offering.