XL Hybrids

For siphoning gas-guzzlers off the road.

This Boston-based company retrofits vans and trucks—aka fuel hogs—with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack, turning them into hybrids and reducing emissions and fuel use by 20%. The work pays for itself in two to four years, depending on gas prices. And it's certainly paid off for XL Hybrids: Revenue grew twentyfold in 2013 alone, with customers including FedEx and Coca-Cola. Here's how it developed.

1. Find the Need
XL Hybrids focused on pickup trucks and vans that travel primarily on city roads, because there were few cost-effective hybrid options for these vehicles.

2. Pick the Tech
"We didn't necessarily plan on a hybrid," says Tod Hynes, founder and president. He first researched all-electric options, but economics, logistics, and scalability made hybrid tech more attractive.

3. Don't Slow Business
XL Hybrids appeals to commercial fleet managers with a simple pitch: The tech "doesn't negatively affect their operations," Hynes says. Trucks can follow their same delivery routes and still achieve environmental gains.

4. Make Friends With Garages
XL Hybrids partners with auto-manufacturing companies like Knapheide, which modifies tens of thousands of commercial truck bodies a year. When a fleet comes in for work, Knapheide can easily do an XL retrofit at the same time.

[Illustration by Mick Marston]