There’s an energy in offices of XL Fleet
Tod Hynes is no exception to the open floor plan at XL Fleet, the company he founded and leads as chief executive. Like many other startup leaders, he has no individual office but instead works at a desk looking out at about 40 employees.
“We’re able to get stuff done pretty quickly,” he says. “If people have questions for me they can just come over and ask.”
His space is wedged against two walls, which does make it the closest thing XL has to a corner office.
Founded in 2009, XL helps companies and governments convert their vehicle fleets into hybrids, powered in part by batteries. The idea is to help the customer base, ranging from Coca-Cola to the City of Boston, save money on gas while cutting down on emissions.
So, naturally, the 12,500-square-foot Brighton space — on the outskirts of Boston and along the Massachusetts Turnpike — has a big garage for product development and testing. It also has a vintage car collection: The facility is owned by former New Balance chief executive Jim Davis, an early investor in XL, who keeps some of his vast auto collection onsite.
“He’s got firetrucks and old police cars and a London taxi. There’s been all sorts of interesting vehicles,” Hynes says.
Up above is the office, where Davis and his team sit. From desk trinkets to heavy-duty equipment, here are some of the other elements of the XL workspace:
Pieces from a meteorological tower in Canada, and other career mementos. Before launching XL, Hynes worked in the wind energy industry, and his desk includes some mementos from that run. Among them: three components of a tall meteorological tower that used sensors to gather data about wind patterns ahead of turbine installations.
He also keeps nearby a license plate presented by a North Dakota native tribe that he worked with on a potential wind project, and a model of a fanged fish from Venezuela, where the oil-pumping goverment regime resisted a clean-energy initiative he pitched.
They’re desk trinkets, essentially, but Hynes sees them as symbolic. He watched as wind power took off as an industry, and he thinks the same will happen with electric vehicles.
“It’s a nice motivator to think about how quickly an industry can scale and have a big impact,” Hynes says.
An energy industry library, available to everybody. Hynes keeps a bookshelf next to his desk, filled with literature about the industry he’s built his career around. The idea is for his employees to peruse them as needed or desired. “There’s some good reads there,” he says — though they’re consulted “not as frequently as they should be.” At least they make for some thematic decor.
A “penalty box” filled with hockey memorabilia. Hynes grew up in family that was kind of hockey-centric. The scion of Boston real estate honcho Tom Hynes of Colliers International, his family hosted several Bruins players during his childhood. Among them was center Joe Thornton, who went on to become a close friend. The two later shared space together outside the Hynes household as roommates.
Fast-forward to XL setting up shop in Brighton, where a cramped conference room earned the nickname of “the penalty box.” Hynes, who played growing up, leaned into the moniker, decking the conference room with hockey boards from the old Boston Garden and several sweaters — including one of Thornton’s, after he was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2005. “It was the worst year ever,” Hynes says.
An old police car bumper, a reminder of the company’s earliest days. In its first days, working out of a small Somerville auto shop, XL tested its product on a few police cruisers the company bought at auction. One of them now hangs over the office, “a nice reminder of where we started,” Hynes says. He’s not sure where the cruiser was from, though he knows one of the police cars bought at auction was from East Greenwich, R.I.
Charging stations, naturally, for employees’ electric cars. Hynes commutes from Newton in a Chevy Bolt, and a handful of his employees also plug into the parking lot charging stations during the workday. Companies and consumers alike are moving toward lower vehicle emissions, first switching from gas-guzzling cars to hybrids and eventually to fully electric vehicles, Hynes says. But for both companies and consumers, he says, the economics need to make sense.
“Going from a hybrid to a plug-in hybrid to an [electric vehicle] is about the individual reducing their fuel,” he says. “But if you want to look very broadly about how we as a country or a globe reduce our fuel consumption and reduce our emissions, it’s not necessarily by doing a relatively small number of EVs. It may be more effective of doing a much larger number of hybrids.”