Fort Worth has long been a center of manufacturing. From Bell Helicopter to Lockheed’s massive plant on the city’s west side that dates back to World War II, manufacturing has been a mainstay of the economy.
Now an innovative electric motor manufacturer — Linear Labs — hopes to add to that legacy as it starts production on a high torque, efficient electric motor and drive system. The motors are currently aimed at the light electric vehicle industry that includes smaller mobility vehicles such as e-bikes, golf carts, small utility trucks and neighborhood electric vehicles that might be used for short trips.
But that is just a start for the much larger vision for CEO and co-founder Brad Hunstable.
“Fifty percent of the world’s electricity passes through some type of electric motor. If you can impact that, even just a small fraction is a big impact on energy, which in my thesis ultimately helps with human suffering, ” said Hunstable, during a tour of the manufacturing plant currently located in an industrial park at 2600 NE Loop 820.
The global light electric vehicle market is estimated to reach $7.6 billion by 2025, growing at a rate of 15% annually, according to Allied Market Research.
Hunstable, who grew up in Granbury, wants to build the company and its manufacturing here.
“I love this city,” he said. “I took money in my last round from local investors. I’ve hired people here because this city, we do advanced manufacturing. That’s what we’re good at. The talent I’ve hired or brought into this city are here. I want to continue to be here.”
Hunstable’s last company was based in Silicon Valley and that “bugged me,” he said. “I was from Texas and I was building something out in San Francisco. I’m not doing that again, I want to be here in Fort Worth.”
There are plenty of advantages to being here, he said.
“We have the scale,” he said. “We got the population growth. We got the cost of living. We’ve got all the raw materials to make us a global player. I’m not talking about being a state player. Forget Austin. I’m talking about being a global player in the world built around this stuff. We have some serious advantages here.”
Linear Labs has plenty of support.
The city of Fort Worth provided a $68.9 million economic incentive package in June 2020. A part of the deal requires Linear Labs to invest $4 million in improvements to its site near the AllianceTexas development and invest $614 million in research and development work. In return, the company will create a minimum of 1,200 full-time jobs, most paying an average salary of $70,000. That increases to $90,000 for jobs related to research and development. Currently, Linear has a team of about 50 and is hoping to nearly double that number by the end of the year, with a focus on hiring engineering talent.
City officials support Linear Labs and its vision for the future.
“Fort Worth has become a growing technology hub that is ripe to bring some of the best and brightest technology and smart energy talent to the city, “ said Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker. “We are open for business and welcome the opportunity to support Linear Labs and businesses like it who are moving us into the next generation of smart energy technology.”
The company has also received support from local investors. It recently closed its Series A funding of $17 million to further support manufacturing capabilities, invest in automation, build out its supply chain and add employees. The round was led by Fort Worth’s Folsom Point Equity and THRC Investments with existing investors Lowercarbon Capital, Kindred Ventures, Saltwater Capital, Champion Hill Ventures, OzoneX Ventures and Capital Factory. That brings its total funding to $30 million.
That support isn’t going to someone without experience in building companies. Prior to founding Linear Labs, Hunstable served as CEO and founder of Ustream, a global enterprise software company. Ustream grew to $40 million in revenue and, in 2016, was acquired by IBM for $150 million. Hunstable is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and holds an MBA from The Ohio State University where he received the 2017 Entrepreneur and Innovation Alumni Award.
But after that startup experience with Ustream, Hunstable, like most entrepreneurs, was looking for another company to put his time and energy behind.
“Like most kids, my father was my hero. He’s always been there for me, inspiring me to go to West Point, so for my second startup, it was a blessing to work with my dad,” said Hunstable.
His father, Fred Hunstable spent years working in the electrical engineering and nuclear power fields.
Brad Hunstable said he and his father began working on ways to make electric motors more efficient.
“We’ve got a combination of breakthroughs that stem from architecture of the motor design to the software,” he said. “Those are the big ones, the two big pockets of our capabilities. They’re both independent, but they both are substantial, creating the increases in capabilities that we haven’t seen anybody else do today.”
If a big company like General Electric made these breakthroughs, they could scale this immediately, Hunstable said. Startups take time and a lot of capital, he said.
“There’s a reason auto manufacturers aren’t started out of the blue. It really does take a public/private partnership to pull these kind of companies off,” he said.
Now the company is starting production on its electric motor and intelligence drive system called HET Light, the HET stands for Hunstable Electric Turbine. The HET Light will offer two models: the HET Light 30 and HET Light 45 Series. The motor will give vehicles an extended range, reduced weight and save space with its smaller size.
During a tour of Linear Labs facility in early March, several city officials took electric-powered bikes and a cart for a spin.
Hunstable pointed out the increased storage space for the vehicles because of the smaller batteries needed to power the system.
“This is something that can change the market, allow these vehicles to be used for longer without charging and allow for more storage,” he said.
Hunstable says Linear Labs will have announcements later this year about customers who are purchasing and using their motors in light electric vehicles. Already, Volcon Inc., a manufacturer of all-electric, off-road powersports vehicles has announced partnership, and more corporate partnerships will be announced later this year
“That’s our first market entry point,” he said. “But, hopefully, in five years, with the city’s help, all our local investors, investors across the globe and my great team here, we’re going to be in water pumps. We’re going to be in big automobiles, 18 wheelers and air conditioners. The motor industry is going to be smart in the world. This company has the potential to be the next GE in my mind, the new version GE 2.0.”
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.