Apr 26, 2022
By Mohan Iyer
Solid Ox Motors: Making Vehicles All-Electric, Grid Optional

Solid Ox Motors is building an onboard trickle charger solution, initially for commercial fleets of electric trucks and buses. This unique range extending solution uses liquid fuel, where the CO2 is retained on board, right back into the fuel tank. Emissions-free. Commercial fleets that need long range are very price sensitive to fueling costs. They also run most of the day and night and thus have short windows to refuel and recharge. Solid Ox allows fleets to refuel in one-tenth of the time, at half the cost. 

CEO of Solid Ox Motors, Jared Moore, was a two-sport athlete in college who became an environmental activist and policy wonk.  After a decade in clean energy research and consulting (and watching “An Inconvenient Truth” multiple times), he decided the only way to drive change he wanted to see in the world was to become an entrepreneur. He was sealing a deal with a large EV fleet company, who had just decided to retrofit one of their trucks with SolidOx, when we caught up with him for this quick interview.  

SolidOx brings solid oxide fuel cells onboard medium and heavy-duty battery electric trucks to trickle charge instead of plugging into a “fast” charger.

Hey Jared, I know you are totally passionate about this.  But convince me and other VCs out there that solving charging issues for electric truck and bus fleets is a big enough problem to pursue?

There’s a lot of hype around the ease of transitioning to EV. With industrial fleets of trucks and buses, the problem is particularly acute. We know from speaking to companies that shareholders and top management want to transition as soon as possible to EV, but the pain points are quite severe. The CapEx and Opex costs, turnaround times, and logistics for charging of medium and heavy-duty fleets are heavily underestimated. Take USPS for instance: They recently published an analysis which estimated that electrifying their fleet would require one $20,000 charger per vehicle!   With those numbers, it’s obvious why they’re not going electric anytime soon. Regardless of this on-the-ground reality, there’s no question that there is tremendous optics and momentum around conversion to EV. This year alone, there will be over 20 million new medium-duty trucks sold in the US. Even if 10% of these adopt our liquid fuel retrofit, this will be a multi-billion monster market opportunity – hidden in plain view. 

What is your secret sauce exactly? 

Our patented technology enables the very efficient use of a liquid fuel such as ethanol or methanol. We are also able to efficiently retain the CO2 produced by our system in liquid form. Our solution is less than half the cost of competitive approaches, such as hydrogen, assuming the formidable infrastructure challenges for distributing hydrogen can even be solved. So, while the EV hype misleads investors to focus their investment dollars in other areas, we will steadily prove out a huge opportunity available for the Solid Ox liquid fuel EV retrofit. This is because we acknowledge key infrastructure realities as they truly are and enable large companies, under pressure to rapidly convert to EV, to actually meet their goals in the near term, before the grid and other infrastructure are up to the task. I should also mention our grid integration capabilities – as a portable power plant, as a temporary charger for other vehicles, and as a vehicle having the option to use excess grid capacity to top off its modest battery pack.

Broadcasting live (over Zoom) from their garage in Pittsburgh, COO Brandon Balili demonstrates a hot-of-the-presses milestone proving SolidOx’s no-extra-energy condenser technology works.

How did you move the ball forward during the IndieBio program? 

We made great progress over the last few months from having a crazy looking solution on paper to a prototype that actually works!  Just last week, we condensed the CO2 produced by our system, and thus reduced to practice this key aspect of our technology. Probably the biggest moment for me during the program was when my co-founder, Brandon, decided to join me in this mission. Brandon is the only other engineer I have met more passionate about solid oxide fuel cells. When I first met him, we talked a little bit about football (both of us played), but hung out and talked the rest of the night about how to solve the problem no one was addressing. I suppose you could say that it was “co-founder at first sight” for me. So when he decided to hop aboard after intense pressure testing of the plan, it felt great and I knew we were on to something very real. Another key milestone we hit recently was working out the details of an attractive pilot project with a potential customer company which has one of the largest medium-duty EV fleets in operation.

What’s next for you? 

Brandon and I have a fun summer planned. Smith EV is giving us one of their medium-duty trucks to perform a Solid Ox retrofit. We plan to operationalize this and then drive across the country stopping at cool places along the way, posting on social media of course, and compiling a massive data set which will help improve our solution. We will prove to the world that our retrofit is a must-have for all medium-duty trucks. EV buses, which will require a slightly scaled up solution, will soon follow. Unless the grid infrastructure is dramatically accelerated, which I very much doubt, I think we will be retrofitting EV cars too with a scaled down solution in due course.