First Mode doubles capacity to electrify heavy-duty vehicles

Retrofitter First Mode, specialising in decarbonising mining operations, has opened a new plant in Seattle, Washington State. Spanning over 3,700 square metres, the factory is ready to produce hybrid kits designed to lead into fully battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles.

Image: First Mode

First Mode mentions a capacity of 150 hybrid-electric retrofit kits per year, thus doubling its capacity.

The emphasis on hybrid drives does not exclude further electrification. First Mode stresses that the HEV conversion requires no changes to infrastructure and keeps the truck’s existing assets intact.

“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,” the company said. “Specifically, the design ‘feeds forward’ into either First Mode’s full battery or next-generation hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle drivetrains, both diesel-free.”

The factory is located in Seattle’s SoDo district and is among the city’s largest cleantech facilities. First Mode invested 22 million dollars and said it would employ up to 30 staff locally. 

The opening was attended by Washington State officials.

First Mode is majority-owned by the mining and commodities group Anglo-American. It is working with ABB and Ballard to supply batteries and fuel cells. Among its range is an electric dump truck for mining operations that combines batteries and fuel cells to power heavy-duty vehicles.

“In mining, for example, a typical ultra-class haul truck – about the size of a three-story building – burns about one million litres of diesel fuel per year, producing around 2,700 t of carbon dioxide annually,” the company explained. Then, taking the throughput of up to 150 HEV units, First Mode estimates the factory could generate the equivalent environmental impact of taking 90,000 passenger cars off the road each year.

First Mode CEO Julian Soles said: “With our factory, the clean energy future for heavy industry begins here in Seattle.” He added, “greener economies require greener minerals, and greener minerals require greener mines.”


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