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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Fort Worth company making technological strides with electric motors

Brad Hunstable, a Texas-native and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, previously built a video streaming platform called Ustream, which he sold to IBM for $150 million. Now, with the help of a technology invented by his father Fred Hunstable, he has developed an entire new family of electric motors, Hunstable Electric Turbine (HET).

Results from several tests show HET produces at minimum twice the driving force output compared to any other electric motor in the world.

The invention of HET likely thrusts Brad’s Fort Worth-based company, Linear Labs, if not ahead of the likes of Elon Musk’s Tesla in the race to next-generation electric cars, or the future of electrification as a whole, but certainly puts him in contention.

And in a typical superhero stance, Linear Labs CEO Brad Hunstable wants to change the world for the better.

“For us as a business, I mean we’re high-tech,” a visibly-excited Brad Hunstable said recently sitting in the edge of his office chair. “But also, I honestly think we can change a lot of lives if we get this technology in all applications – a big impact on the world.” 

The superpower

A conventional magnetic motor produces torque (force) by spinning extremely fast. For practical use in a vehicle, a gearbox is required to reduce the motor’s rotation speed to a level that matches the speed of the tires.

HET is built out of a new methodology, the first such change in electric motors and generator in over 120 years, according to the company.

The HET does not need a gearbox, saving space and reducing overall weight, and can bridge the motor and tires speed seamlessly. 

“We think, it’s the holy grail in electric motors and generators,” Hunstable said.

HET’s motor coils, which create the essential rotations, are surrounded by like-polarity magnetic materials, which increases efficiencies across the operating speed range. And, contrary to a regular motor, all the copper in the HET is involved in energy conversion.

Apart from generating more torque in much lower RPMs, HET produces three times the power density, two times the output per given motor size and minimum 10% more range as compared to the top permanent magnet motors on the market.

And, HET is cost-effective as it runs likes a DC motor and uses simpler cheaper electronics. The motor does not need rare earth metals, like the expensive and traditionally-used neodymium. HET uses the widely available iron ferrite metal.

“It really is a game-changing sort of thing,” Hunstable said. “Where we’re entering, I call it ‘electrification 2.0,’ – the next wave of electrification. Just like we went through the first Industrial Revolution, we went through the second, the third.”

About 45% of worldwide electricity consumption passes through an electric motor.

According to the International Energy Agency, electricity will account for 24% of all energy consumption by 2040. The push for de-carbonization could increase demand for electricity even more, along with other renewable energy sources.

The origin story

What now looks set to disrupt a multi-billion-dollar industry in the next few years, Linear Labs began as a father-son garage project.

Fred, co-founder and CTO of Linear Labs, worked in electrical and nuclear power industries for most of his life. Fred would bring different types of tools and create electrical machines from scratch, a regular occurrence in the Hunstable household where Brad would assist.

One such garage project for the father and son duo was to rethink how a simple farm windmill functioned. They wanted to generate clean water and useable electricity from the up-and-down motion of a windmill through a yet-to-be-invented device. The plan was to distribute the devices in developing regions in Africa, South America and parts of Asia.

Fred made a key discovery while architecting and designing a linear electrical generator for the project. They pulled the plug on the windmill project and later patented the discovery and the invention that followed, namely: HET.   

“We have our good days and bad days, don’t we?” Fred Hunstable said about working with his son then and now. “99% of them are good. It’s fun. Actually, we’re having a blast.”

Linear Labs currently has 64 issued or pending patents.

It’s an unscientific estimation, but it’s likely Brad Hunstable got the inventor genes from his father.

Brad has an MBA degree from The Ohio State University. Before heading out to Silicon Valley to develop Ustream, Brad Hunstable was working for Dallas-based Hillwood. When he quit his job, the company founder and chairman became his first investor.

“Ross Perot Jr. said, ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying but I want to invest in you’ and he handed me a $300,000 check,” Brad said.

Brad developed UStream, presently called IBM Cloud Video, into a $40 million in revenue company.

He then returned to his home state to form Linear Labs in 2014.

The next chapter

Earlier this year, Linear Labs successfully closed a $4.5 million seed round led by Science Inc. and San Francisco-based Kindred Ventures.

Venture investor Chris Sacca, who made early bets on Twitter and Uber, participated in the seed round. Other participants in the round included Saltwater Ventures, Dynamic Signal CEO Russ Fradin, former Masergy CEO Chris MacFarland and Ustream co-founder Dr. Gyula Feher.

Linear Labs then announced a partnership with Swedish electric powertrain designer Abtery, which will input HET in its electric mobility vehicles. 

“The Hunstable Electric Turbine will give our partners a clear advantage in the highly competitive electric mobility space,” Martin De la Vega, CEO of Abtery had said while announcing the partnership. “We see its uses to be infinite in terms of reaching our clients’ elevated performance, size, weight and range requirements.” 

Abtery provides services to manufacturers through confidential agreements. Notable clients include Elise Aviation and Sarvo, an electric luxury boat manufacturer. Linear Labs provided Abtery a license to its patented technology.

Through direct manufacturing or subcontracting, Linear Labs plans to roll out HET in several industries soon. HET will be in e-scooter by next year and in air-conditioning units and cars within two years, according to the company.

Brad said Linear Labs has been closing multi-million-dollar deals as recently as a couple of weeks ago.  

“We got so much interest that we have to be very deliberate about who we work with,” Brad Hunstable said, “which in one hand is great, on the other hand, makes some people mad.”

Linear Labs is also planning to build and open a factory in AllianceTexas.

Linear Labs currently has 25 employees working. It expects to employ at least 250 people by 2020 and 1000 people by 2021, Brad Hunstable said.

“Leaps and bounds,” Fred Hunstable said. “It’s been exciting to introduce all these stuff – a whole new perspective on electric motors.”

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Neetish Basnet
Neetish is a writer and digital content producer for Fort Worth Business Press. He has been covering businesses of all shapes and sizes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for several years. After graduating with a journalism degree from University of Texas-Arlington, Dow Jones News Fund selected him for a digital media fellowship. He still likes the smell of a freshly printed newspaper.

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