On February 21, First Mode celebrated a key milestone with the grand opening of our factory in the SoDo district of Seattle. Joined by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Zero Emission Transportation Association Executive Director Albert Gore, among other key government, industry, and union leaders, we applauded First Mode’s community of partners, reflected on the significance of our work to decarbonize heavy industry, officially “cut the ribbon”, and provided tours to showcase our smart manufacturing facility and approach in greater detail.   

Our 40,000 square foot factory is now one of the largest clean tech manufacturing facilities in the city. Each year, it will produce the components and systems for up to 150 First Mode hybrid EV (HEV) retrofits. In addition, it is equipped to not only double its annual HEV throughput but rapidly pivot to full battery and hydrogen fuel cell EV retrofits as customer demand also grows for our zero-emissions products. 

First Mode’s $22-million factory will employ up to 60 staff locally for a future throughput of 300 retrofits while cultivating impact around the world by helping to reduce the emissions of heavy industry, a hard-to-abate sector that is responsible for a quarter of carbon emissions globally. In mining, for example, a typical ultra-class haul truck – about the size of a three-story building – burns about one million liters of diesel fuel per year, producing around 2,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Across our customer market, over 13,000 haul trucks are in global operation, releasing 35 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually – the equivalent of nearly eight million gas-fueled passenger cars each year, slightly more than the number of cars in Washington state (USA).    

Meeting the Demand for Decarbonization  

The First Mode product line is a breakthrough for mining companies that are looking to reduce their carbon emissions but not fiscally ready to replace their diesel-powered haulage fleets in current operation – since the original price they paid per ultra-class heavy haul truck can run up to $5 million USD, and each truck is designed to operate continuously for 10-15 years.

With no changes to infrastructure required, our HEV retrofit keeps the truck’s existing assets intact – safeguarding the mining company’s previous investment in the truck while reducing its fuel usage and carbon emissions by up to 25%.  

But what fully differentiates First Mode’s HEV from the rest is its flexible, interoperable design that readies the truck for the final step on its path to zero emissions. Specifically, the design “feeds forward” into either First Mode’s full battery or next-generation hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle drivetrains, both of which are diesel-free. 

With an annual expected throughput of up to 150 HEV units, the First Mode factory is poised to generate the equivalent environmental impact of taking 90,000 passenger cars off the road each year.  

“Our customers are feeling the need to decarbonize. Whether you believe in climate change or not, moving towards electrification is the way to go. It’s more efficient and less energy-intensive compared to diesel and buying fossil fuels. Our customers are really excited about getting started,” Julian Soles, First Mode CEO, told Fox13, which covered our Factory Ribbon Cutting event. 

Spurring the Clean Industrial Revolution 

In his remarks, longtime clean energy champion, Governor Jay Inslee, described the current energy transition as the biggest societal shift since people transitioned from riding horses to driving cars. He also applauded Washington state, plus innovators such as First Mode, for our uniquely critical contributions. 

“We are first with the most aggressive effort to reduce climate change gases in our state. We are first in the development not only of battery manufacturing but integrating [with] companies like [First Mode] that are focusing not just on batteries, but hydrogen as well,” said Inslee.  “To be first out of the gate in any revolution is the place to be.” 

Albert Gore III, the Executive Director of the Zero Emission Trade Association, also made remarks. “Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and also the one with solutions most readily at hand,” said Gore when describing the comparative challenges of reducing emissions for heavy duty vehicles and machinery as a sector. “First Mode demonstrates that there is no use case that can’t be decarbonized.” ZETA is an industry-backed coalition advocating for the electrification of transportation and a secure and sustainable mineral supply chain.  

In video remarks shared in honor of the event, Geoffrey Pyatt, Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources with the U.S. Department of State, reflected that the diplomatic work of the State Department “is only part of the equation” because it also relies on companies like First Mode to drive positive change through clean energy technology innovation that not only expands but also strengthens the clean energy supply chain. 

As reaffirmed by First Mode CEO Julian Soles from the event podium: “With our factory, the clean energy future for heavy industry begins here in Seattle. [This is] because greener economies require greener minerals, and greener minerals require greener mines.”