Volvo Group gathers startups for incubation

Not unlike startup accelerator company Y Combinator and venture capital firm 500 Global, the starting point for hundreds of young entrepreneurs, Sweden’s Volvo Group has its own version of finding and tapping tomorrow’s talent for trucking and its other businesses. 

It’s called CampX, a physical location where more than 50 startups have explored and accelerated new ideas under the watchful eye of the global truck maker. The latest addition is an incubator where early-stage startups can develop their innovations.

Volvo’s CampX has 3 tracks

CampX has three tracks: the Incubator, the Accelerator and the Venture Builder. In the Incubator, early-phase startups receive an invitation to the CampX hub in Sweden. In the Accelerator, short co-creation projects come together. And in Venture Builder, Volvo product and business owners get support to validate and bring forward cases with high business potential.

“We are confident that the CampX concept can help catalyze an urgent transformation of the transport industry towards a sustainable future,” Lars Stenqvist, Volvo Group chief technology officer, said in a news release. “CampX is a strategic engine where we can accelerate technology and business innovation through partnerships.”

As concepts show the promise of scalability, Volvo Group Venture Capital invests financially, as it did in January with autonomous trucking technology startup Waabi. Other portfolio companies include digital broker Flock Freight and Foretellix, which automates testing, verification and validation for automated driving systems. 

Investment is no guarantee of success or of exclusivity. Foretellix formed a multiyear partnership with Daimler Truck’s independent autonomous subsidiary Torc Robotics in January. 

Volvo Group started CampX in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2019. It has since expanded to four countries — France, India and the U.S. — where startups work side by side with Volvo engineers who provide access to mentoring and networks and provide business insights.

Volvo Group’s CampX has expanded to four counties, including the U.S. (Photo: Volvo Group)

Volvo seeks to turn up aces

CampX is playing for ACES — automation, connectivity, electromobility and sustainability.

Volvo, Qamcom Group and the inventor Roman lustin last year formed Fyrqom AB to offer an automated system for calibrating tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) on heavy-duty vehicles. TPMS for heavy-duty trucks are relatively rare in Europe. But they will be required after 2024.

Other partners with ideas for business challenges Volvo wants to solve:

  • Radchat, which enables radars to communicate to get precise positioning in, for example, underground mines.
  • Repli5, which has software that automates the creation of 3D environments for simulation.
  • Kite, which works with thermal management solutions for electromobility to enable efficient cooling.
  • Autonomous Knight, which has a multispectral camera that enables better all-weather vision.

“We help entrepreneurs to validate their potential breakthrough solutions as quickly as possible, to advance sustainable mobility,” said Helene Niklasson, who heads CampX. “By having these startups literally next to our Volvo engineers, we thus encourage spontaneous interactions. Everyone knows the best ideas are often brainstormed next to the coffee machine.”

CampX started in 2019 and has engaged with more than 50 startups in four years, investing in several. (Photo: Volvo Group)

Phillips Industries has a similar idea

At this week’s Technology Maintenance Council event in Orlando, Florida, Phillips Industries, a manufacturer of advanced electrical and air brake system components for the commercial truck and trailer industry, announced Phillips Innovations. 

The idea is to bring trailblazing ideas to market faster.  

“We are investing heavily in the launch of Phillips Innovations because as our industry evolves, we’re presented with an entirely new set of challenges that we can solve with the right partners,” CEO Rob Phillips said at a news conference.  

Phillips Innovations will focus first on sustainable energy technologies. Companies partnering with Phillips Innovations are:

  • Merlin Solar, which makes kits to power cab comforts in Class 8 trucks.  
  • ProEV, which makes high-voltage harnesses and electric vehicle technology for battery-electric and fuel cell-powered Class 8 trucks and trailers. 
  • Spartan Radar, which has trailer blindspot detection devices that layer with trailer camera radar technologies to help reduce accidents.

Torc the acquired does its own acquiring

Autonomous trucking company Torc Robotics, acquired by Daimler Truck in 2019, signed an agreement to acquire Algolux Inc., a provider of computer vision and machine learning critical to eventually removing the human from the cab.

The acquisition combines Algolux’s end-to-end artificial intelligence stack, from photons to behavior, with Torc’s autonomous technology. Terms were undisclosed.

“Add in a tightly integrated OEM truck platform [in development at Daimler Truck] and you have a dream scenario,” Felix Heide, Algolux chief technology officer, said in a news release.  

Algolux and Torc have been working together for more than a year on multiple perception concepts and methods for improving object detection and estimating distances. Robust perception technology is critical to helping Torc’s autonomous system correctly identify objects in low light, fog or inclement weather. 

Algolux software is currently operating on Freightliner Cascadia test vehicles and is being included in Torc’s software development.

Borg Warner completes deal to build its Asia base

BorgWarner Inc. has completed its acquisition of China’s Hubei Surpass Sun Electric’s electric vehicle charging solution, smart grid and smart energy businesses. 

The acquisition, valued at $59.3 million, grows Tier 1 supplier BorgWarner’s electrification business in Asia. It complements the company’s existing charging footprint in Europe and North America.

Headquartered in Xiangyang, Hubei province, SSE’s electrification business supplies electric vehicle charging solutions to customers in China and more than 70 other countries. 

SSE has delivered more than 50,000 charging points and has led the engineering, procurement and construction of more than 250 charging station sites in China.

“This transaction makes good business sense as we continue to bolster our fast-charging capabilities globally,” Frédéric Lissalde, president and CEO of BorgWarner, said in a September news release announcing the acquisition. “SSE will bring enhanced offerings while supporting Charging Forward, our strategy to accelerate our growth in electrification.” 

Hyliion and Hyzon together?

When Hyliion Holdings announced a fuel cell truck collaboration with Hyzon Motors this week, Hyliion CEO Thomas Healy was waiting for the question that never came.

FREIGHTWAVES: Hyliion acquired fuel agnostic generator technology from General Electric last year. Would you move to buy financially struggling Hyzon?

HEALY: We figured that would come up as a question on earnings. I’ve got a strict script from my GC [general counsel] on this one. I can’t comment on any hypotheticals. 

At this stage it’s the development agreement. We’ve obviously discussed: ‘Hey, if this works and the customer is interested, how would we work together in the future?’”

FREIGHTWAVES: What other companies did Hyliion consider before cutting a fuel cell deal with Hyzon?

HEALY: Because of NDAs [non-disclosure agreements], I can’t say the companies’ names. But they’re the suspects that you would expect.

FREIGHTWAVES: What about Hyzon’s financial difficulties, the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, etc.?

HEALY: Obviously, we’re aware of it. We’ve had great discussions with Parker [Meeks], their new CEO. We looked at where they’re at as a company. I can’t comment on what they’ve got going on with the SEC and everything. But from a technology standpoint we decided this was the right fit. 

We’re both in the same space. So if Hyzon’s got great fuel cell technologies and we’ve got great powertrain technology, then it makes sense to work together, right?

Thomas Healy, Hyliion Holdings CEO, says Hyzon Motors’s fuel cell technology is a good fit for the Hypertruck ERX. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Click here to get Truck Tech via email on Fridays. And tune into Truck Tech on FreightWaves TV. Next week, we’ll review the happenings at the Work Truck Week trade show in Indianapolis with Shyft Group CEO Darryl Adams and S&P Global Mobility analyst Antti Lindstrom.


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