First Mode agrees to combine with Anglo American’s zero-emission truck business

This ore-hauling truck is powered by a hydrogen-fueled powerplant. (First Mode / Anglo American Photo)

First Mode, a Seattle-based engineering company, says it’s agreed to a business combination with the zero-emission truck development effort led by the Anglo American mining company.

The deal follows up on First Mode’s work with Anglo American on its nuGen Zero Emissions Haulage Solution, which uses a hybrid hydrogen-battery powertrain on ore-hauling trucks. First Mode designed and built the powerplant in partnership with several other companies.

In May, Anglo American unveiled the first converted nuGen monster truck at its platinum mine in Mogalakwena, South Africa. The newly combined business, operating under the First Mode name, would convert Anglo American’s fleet of 400 trucks to the nuGen system. It would also provide associated site infrastructure for battery charging as well as hydrogen production and refueling.

First Mode says converting 400 ultra-class haul trucks to zero-emission systems is equivalent to taking 280,000 carbon-emitting cars off the road.

“We started First Mode to solve meaningful and difficult problems,” Chris Voorhees, president and CEO of First Mode, said in a news release. “Climate change and energy security are the paramount challenges of our time, and I am so proud this will be First Mode’s focus as we enter this next phase of growth. Now is the right time, and this is the right team, to build the barely possible for this extraordinary set of problems. ”

First Mode said it’s agreed on the arrangements for the Anglo American transaction, which it expects to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year. In a separate news release, Anglo American said it has agreed on “non-binding terms.”

The transaction calls for Anglo American to make an additional capital investment in First Mode to facilitate the growth of the organization and the deployment of its solutions to market.

Anglo American says it acquired a 10% strategic equity interest in First Mode last year, which was reported as $ 8.5 million in regulatory filings. That implies that First Mode was valued at $ 85 million at the time. After the close of the transaction, Anglo American would hold the majority share of the new First Mode business. Strategic third parties would be allowed to co-invest alongside Anglo American to accelerate their own decarbonization plans.

In response to an email inquiry, First Mode told GeekWire that further financial details will be shared after the transaction closes.

When the deal closes, First Mode intends to establish a corporate headquarters in London while expanding its technology and production hub in Seattle and its subsidiary in the Western Australian city of Perth. New corporate locations could be established in proximity to First Mode’s clients.

Rhae Adams, First Mode’s chief operating officer, said the company plans to widen the range of applications for its zero-emissions technology.

“Our vision is to develop turnkey decarbonization strategies across heavy industries like rail, mining and maritime, providing the same level of service that operators are used to today,” Adams said. “While we are starting today with the retrofit of existing customer vehicles, we look forward to working with a wide range of OEM platform makes and models, including new vehicles.”

First Mode was founded as an employee-owned engineering firm in 2018, principally by veterans of the now-defunct Planetary Resources asteroid mining company. The company started out with a focus on space hardware projects – including contributions to NASA’s Perseverance rover mission to Mars and the Psyche mission to a metal-rich asteroid.

Over the past three years, First Mode has increasingly turned its focus to products and systems that are critical for zero-emission mobility, decarbonization of heavy industry and the production and distribution of clean energy. “If there is overlap with space hardware development, it’s possible we could continue to take on that type of project,” First Mode told GeekWire in its email.

First Mode currently has more than 220 full-time employees on its team.

“We expect to have between 15 and 25 employees in our UK office, and have plans to grow to around 300 before the end of the year,” the company said. “Our Seattle and Australia operations remain a significant part of our global strategy, including two new facilities in Washington state we will announce in the coming months.”

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