Valley native invests $300M in Ohio fuel-cell plant
A Southern California-based company founded and managed by a Warren native plans to expand in Ohio and invest nearly $300 million on a new facility to develop and manufacture hydrogen fuel cells.
Hyperion Companies Inc. plans to occupy the former printing and distribution center of the Columbus Dispatch west of downtown Columbus to research, develop and mass produce hydrogen fuel cells that will be used in the company’s new line of stationary and mobile energy storage products, including Hyperion’s XP-1 — the hydrogen / electric-powered supercar unveiled to the public in March 2020.
“We have a platform approach we are building out, and what is beautiful about that is we chose a geometry and architecture that works for a car, it works for stations and it works for microgrids, so we built a single geometry that will be built in this factory that we are going to be announcing soon and that technology is the core technology that powers everything,” said CEO Angelo Kafantaris.
Hyperion’s product line will also be manufactured at the 500,000-square-foot facility in the city’s Hilltop neighborhood west of downtown. The factory is expected to employ close to 700 full-time workers over the next six years.
“The vast majority of what makes these products functional, over 75 percent, is within that core” fuel cell technology platform, Kafantaris said. Expansion is probable to meet industry demand for Hyperion’s products, he said.
Production is expected to start in 2023.
The XP-1, “as exciting as it is, is only a small piece of the narrative for Hyperion,” said Kafantaris. “It really is about introducing why hydrogen is so good. Hydrogen … is also an electric technology. It stores its energy in electrons, in electromagnetic bonds between these different molecules.”
“The key I want to communicate is its mass energy storage. You can store almost unlimited power with hydrogen, huge, huge megawatts and gigawatts of energy that are not possible to store with batteries, and because of that, hydrogen is great for cars … but actually hydrogen is revolutionary on a greater sense for energy.”
An executive team of about 10 people will come from California. The Orange, Calif.-based location will remain, but transition more toward research with the central Ohio location mostly for manufacturing. The Ohio facility also will have a research and development division for fuel-cell materials and catalysts.
For Kafantaris, a 2002 graduate of Warren G. Harding High School, it’s a homecoming.
Hyperion was conceived in 2011 in Columbus and moved to the West in 2014. Part of the reason for the return was the “perfect blend” of technology resources to the manufacturing base, Kafantaris said. Another was the role played by Warren’s BRITE Energy Innovators — Ohio’s only energy-focused startup incubator — to help position Hyperion for large-scale manufacturing.
Northeast Ohio could be in line for future growth by the company.
“When it comes to the applications we have in store and are planning, we are looking at other parts of Ohio, including, of course, my hometown region … whom I have never forgotten and whom I would love to serve,” Kafantaris said. “That being said, Rick (Stockburger) will do his best and I will do my best to find the opportunity to make that happen, more than likely in the application of some of the technology, but also keeping in mind utilizing the resources of that area.”
Stockburger is CEO / president of BRITE.
It was 2019 when Hyperion and BRITE signed a collaborative agreement to help Hyperion raise capital and provide some technology support. Three years later, the $300 million investment was announced.
“It is exactly the type of outcome that we hope to have. We are a statewide organization, and the fact that the majority of their operations were in California and they are moving their headquarters to Ohio is amazing for economic development,” Stockburger said. “One thing that Angelo said that I think is really important is there is more to do. This is an initial investment into manufacturing the fuel cells. There is more research to be done and here is more jobs to be had. I am excited for their growth.”
What could facilitate Hyperion’s growth in northeast Ohio is the NASA Glenn Research Center, which is NASA’s center of excellence for propulsion and power systems.
“What I think is really important about the Warren area is its location. From Warren, you could easily access NASA Glenn, you could easily access Carnegie Mellon (University) and there is a very, very bright future around the opportunities that come in line with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Akron and how that all coalesces in the Mahoning Valley,” Stockburger said. “I think it’s a huge opportunity to look at their next growth stage and make sure we keep working on ourselves to be that type of place where companies want to come and want to grow.”