Clean Energy Company Secures Grant for Centralia Mining Haul Truck Proving Ground


Centralia could see the first proving grounds for hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and battery powered ultra-class mining haul trucks this year as First Mode announced it secured a $250,000 grant from the Washington Department of Commerce, according to a news release. 

“Lewis County could well become a symbol of Washington state’s robust and growing clean energy economy when zero-emission trucks the height of three-story buildings are seen rolling around the First Mode Proving Grounds later this year,” read an excerpt from the release. 

The Economic Alliance of Lewis County aided in securing the grant, which will assist with design and construction costs as First Mode begins renovations to office and workshop spaces then expands the former coal mine site near Centralia, currently on lease from TransAlta. 

TransAlta’s old coal mine is the ideal testing site as it will allow the ultra-class haul trucks to operate in a true mining environment, according to the news release. 

“This project is the beginning of understanding new technology,” said Richard DeBolt, executive director of the Economic Alliance of Lewis County, in the release. “It brings Lewis County into the future of the hydrogen valley and will create opportunity clusters for the future.”

Founded in 2018, First Mode is a Seattle-based carbon reduction company that produces hybrid fuel cell battery power plants. 

The move to open the Centralia proving grounds follows First Mode’s successful proof-of-concept deployment of a hybrid ultra-class haul truck at the Anglo American’s platinum mine located in Mogalakwena, South Africa back in May 2022.  

“The extensive knowledge and experience of the Centralia community, coupled with Washington state’s leadership on clean energy innovation, are key to the success of First Mode’s work,” said First Mode CEO Julian Soles in the release. “We started with retrofitting a diesel engine with a clean energy power plant in a single haul truck. We are now scaling our capabilities and deployments to move the mining industry another step closer to decarbonization.” 

Both state and Lewis County Economic Alliance officials are optimistic the proving ground project could lead to significant economic growth as First Mode progresses toward full scale commercialization and mass production of megawatt class fuel-cell-electric-vehicle power plants. 

“Support for robust public-private innovation clusters in prime industry sectors is central to our long-term strategy. We are developing regional hubs that will create and sustain new business opportunities and good jobs in communities throughout Washington state,” said Washington State Commerce Director Lisa Brown in the release. “First Mode is an important member of our growing clean hydrogen ecosystem.” 

Gov. Jay Inslee added in the release, “No other U.S. region is better positioned to tackle the game-changing challenge of developing and commercializing technologies for decarbonizing heavy industry. Establishment of the First Mode Proving Grounds is an exciting next step for Washington state and the Pacific Northwest.”  

For more information on First Mode, visit