First Mode

Fuel Cell Laboratory

A cutting-edge test facility drives decarbonization forward. 

First Mode is a clean energy leader in developing and manufacturing decarbonization solutions for the heavy industrial market – retrofitting large diesel engines into hybrid, battery electric, and fuel cell electric vehicles.

The new 40,800-square-foot development and manufacturing facility in Seattle’s SoDo district is advancing First Mode’s carbon reduction goals and clean energy technology manufacturing capabilities.

AEI provided mechanical, electrical, piping/plumbing, and instrumentation and controls engineering design, cost estimating services, and consulting & leadership for First Mode’s development and manufacturing facility.

Key facility features include a 2MW medium-voltage load bank test system, installation requirements for classified test spaces, enhanced ground monitoring, backup power systems supporting ventilation, and control systems for hazard mitigation.


Seattle, WA


  • BNBuilders, Inc. - Construction Manager
  • JRMA - Architect of Record

Building Size

40,800 square feet

A sample hydrogen fuel test lab (AEI illustration)

First Mode’s dynamic manufacturing facility is also equipped with the following:

  • Hydrogen storage and distribution system
  • Nitrogen tank supplying the facility with nitrogen for testing and hydrogen purging
  • 2,000kW load bank serving fully assembled hybrid power unit labs
  • 100kW load bank serving component test labs

One of Seattle’s largest clean technology manufacturing spaces, the facility features a UPS battery emergency power system, instead of a generator, dual-cell cooling towers serving the facility’s process load, cooling water to DI water heat exchanger, and additional compressed air, power, and lighting utilities throughout the building.

Hydrogen (H2) fuel cell battery (stock photo)

Hydrogen fuel cell concept (AEI illustration)

First Mode hydrogen distribution system

Furthermore, AEI provided engineering design services for the manufacturing and test facility's hydrogen-related instrumentation.

AEI’s hydrogen distribution system design features the following:

  • Hydrogen distribution controls, piping, tank specifications, and regulation
  • Infrastructure components and fueling skids
  • 3,000 psig storage
  • Research and development lab and end-of-line testing laboratories

First Mode research labs

Beyond high-tech manufacturing capabilities, First Mode’s new facility supports several research labs advancing their mission to reduce carbon emissions in heavy industry applications such as mining and rail. To prevent a hazardous manufacturing atmosphere, AEI’s lab design included air change rates achieved by monitoring flow, pre-cooling, and dynamic leakage.

Implementing smart manufacturing practices, First Mode’s new facility simultaneously tests and manufactures fuel cell components and zero-emission products for its nuGen™ solutions, replacing diesel engines by retrofitting fleets with lithium-ion battery and hydrogen fuel cell solutions. First Mode’s facility will be able to manufacture enough components to retrofit 36 heavy industry vehicles with nuGen™ systems each year.

Learn more about First Mode

First Mode offers decarbonization solutions for heavy industry vehicles such as mining trucks (stock photo)

Project Leaders