CTO Tres Hill says the company has hit “an inflection point” with market adoption of systems designed to switch internal combustion engines off as much as possible.
Hill joined founder and CEO Devin Scott at Stealth Power as a contractor in 2016. “Devin brought me on to work on the original firmware for the core of our system, which is called the MCU,” says Hill.
Calling Scott a visionary for the concept behind the business, Hill adds, “He saw that we need to turn off the combustion engine as much as possible. Our mission is to turn off internal combustion engines. It’s a pretty simple mission.”
The company’s Vehicle Power System automatically turns off any engine that’s been idling for two minutes and powers the heating and other systems with a lithium-ion battery module.
“It doesn’t make any sense to run a giant, diesel, 500-horsepower engine just to keep the air conditioning going,” says Hill. “It’s much more efficient to come in with a battery pack . . . then you tap into the system of the vehicle so you keep the air conditioning blowing cold and the heart blowing hot, but you do it off of a battery.”
The company landed its first customer, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), in 2016. “They’ve been the backbone of our business,” says Hill. “We were turning off engines using lead-acid batteries back in 2016. We were showing people that you could take an ambulance or a utility truck or a police vehicle, and you could provide power from a battery pack and that would allow you to turn off the engine.”
Systems start at $3,000. The return on investment is complemented by lowered emissions. “Number one, our system pays for itself in fuel savings,” says Hill. “Number two, you get all of the environmental benefits.”
And there’s also a data play that can help fleet managers better streamline operations. “We collect data from every ambulance with our system in FDNY. We can calculate how many pounds of CO2 we’ve saved and exactly how many gallons of fuel, and it’s not based on projections or we hope this is happening — we get real-time data.”
The bottom line? “We’re seeing about a 20 percent reduction in the engine hours. This reduces the wear and tear on the engine.”
While the company proved the concept early in its existence, it required a shift from manual to automatic to have an impact. “People are creatures of habit,” says Hill. “We realized we had to take over the starting and stopping of the engine.”
Fleets are the target market, no matter the industry. Besides FDNY, Stealth Power’s customers include New Jersey utility PSE&G and a number of van conversion operations.
The company works with automotive upfitters for installations and often adds solar panels to the vehicle to recharge the batteries. “We leave the vehicle’s warrantied systems as-is,” says Hill. “The better thing for us to do is build a box. . . . We bring in all the parts and integrate that complete system into a box, and all they [upfitters] have to do is bolt that system onto the vehicle.”
Another Stealth Power product, the Mobile Power System, improves the efficiency of off-grid generators by 85 percent by supplementing them with solar panels (and sometimes wind turbines) and a smart control system.
Customers include drillers, telecom companies, and government agencies. One customer had 50 such installations during the winter storm in 2021 that wreaked havoc on the Texas electrical grid, and not one of them failed. “The entire grid in Texas went down, but not one of our systems went down,” says Hill. “People need to realize that green power is more reliable than fossil fuels.”
A catch: “They don’t have Tesla charging stations when they’re running power lines or they’re out checking pipelines. A lot of these fleets think they’re going to need combustion engines for a while, but they want to be as green as they can.”
Stealth Power builds systems in-house and leverages several contract partners for components, including East West Manufacturing Enterprises in Austin for the MCUs. “They let us do runs of the size that we need,” says Hill. “I just have to tip my hat to those guys.
The company sources UL-listed lithium-ion batteries from a number of suppliers. “We like to go with proven technologies,” says Hill. “Batteries have evolved so much. They’re so much lighter weight and there’s so much more power available.”
After delivering more than 5,000 systems, revenue has been doubling quarterly, and Hill forecasts 4X to 8X growth in 2022. “We’ve hit a real inflection point in terms of revenue,” says Hill. “We have a larger pipeline than we ever have. I call it a sea change. We used to have to call people and they might not call us back. Now people are cold-calling us.”
Challenges: Getting buy-in from fleet managers. “There’s always been resistance,” says Hill. “They want to do the right thing, but they’re also figuring out how much of a headache something’s going to be. It has to come from a senior level.”
As the company manufactures systems in-house, there’s another unavoidable challenge. “Supply chain is impacting everybody,” he says. “We’ve never seen anything like this in the history of the company.”
Stealth Power is navigating the turmoil by offering blanket purchase orders, extended forecasting, and warehousing. “Just-in-time manufacturing is going out the door,” says Hill.
Opportunities: Publicly traded companies looking to post their ESG (environmental, social, and governance) metrics. “All these pension funds are trying to go into environmentally aware, socially conscious, and open-governance kinds of companies,” says Hill. “We work with a lot of power companies and oil and gas companies. Our system is one way for them to crank the dial on their score quickly, even with existing fleets.”
And due to power needs and plenty of room for solar panels, recreational vehicles are a booming market for Stealth Power. “The RV space is exploding,” he says. “It’s almost like microbreweries.”
The military is another intriguing target in the longer term: “I found out that the U.S. Army runs the largest fleet of vehicles on the planet.”
Needs: Space and labor. Stealth Power is moving to a 15,000-square-foot facility to quadruple its square footage in March 2022, says Hill, forecasting at least 20 new hires, largely technicians and production staff, by the end of the year. “The thing that’s really golden is a personal referral,” he says. “Because we’re greentech, we have a great pool of graduates.
Hill says he’s also looking for contract manufacturers to supply wiring harnesses and other components, and perhaps build the entire system. “We’re open to outsourcing more of our manufacturing,” he says. “We realize that outsourcing more of the manufacturing is another thing we might need to do just to scale.”