First mode to combine with Anglo American’s zero-emission trucking business

This ore-transporting truck is powered by a hydrogen-powered power station. (First mode / Anglo-American photo)

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

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

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

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

“We started First Mode to solve meaningful and difficult problems,” Chris Voorhees, president and CEO of First Mode, said in a press release. “Climate change and energy security are the key challenges of our time, and I am so proud that this will be the focus of First Mode as we move into 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 has reached an agreement on the arrangements for the Anglo-US transaction, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year. In a separate press release, Anglo American said it has agreed to “non-binding terms.”

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

Anglo American says it acquired a strategic 10% equity stake in First Mode last year, which was reported to be $8.5 million in regulatory filings. That means First Mode was worth $85 million at the time. Upon completion of the transaction, Anglo American would own a majority stake in the new First Mode business. Strategic third parties should be allowed to co-invest alongside Anglo American to accelerate their own decarbonisation plans.

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

When the deal closes, First Mode plans to establish a headquarters in London while expanding its technology and manufacturing hub in Seattle and its subsidiary in the Western Australian city of Perth. New business locations can be established in close proximity to First Mode’s customers.

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

“Our vision is to develop turnkey decarbonization strategies in heavy industries such as rail, mining and maritime, with the same level of service operators are accustomed to today,” said Adams. “As we begin retrofitting existing customer vehicles today, we look forward to working with a wide variety of OEM platform makes and models, including new vehicles.”

First Mode was founded in 2018 as an engineering company owned by employees, mostly by veterans of the now-defunct asteroid mining company Planetary Resources. The company began with a focus on hardware projects in space — 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 focused on products and systems essential to zero-emission mobility, decarbonisation of heavy industry, and clean energy production and distribution. “If there’s overlap with space hardware development, it’s possible we can continue with those kinds of projects,” First Mode told GeekWire in its email.

First Mode currently has over 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 by the end of the year,” the company said. “Our operations in Seattle and Australia remain an important part of our global strategy, including two new facilities in Washington State that we will be announcing in the coming months.”