Electric vehicles will play a key role in driving the decarbonisation of our cities, but the business case for ditching fossil fuel buses has so far been lacking. Heliox, a Dutch SME, has developed a super-fast charging system for electric buses and is now taking their sustainable solution global, thanks to support from the Enterprise Europe Network.
Heliox’s innovative system can charge an electric bus at a turnaround station in 2-5 minutes. This opens the door to a zero-emission, 24/7 public transport system, powered entirely by renewables.
"SMEs are game changers," said Mark Smidt, business development director of Heliox. "We have the ideas, experience and technologies to change industries, but we don’t always have the expertise to expand."
Frustratingly, Heliox found that even after running successful pilot schemes, some public authorities found it too early to adapt their entire fleet. They realised that they needed business expertise they could trust to help bring costs down and identify public transport operators who would be more willing to step into this new form of green transport. At this point they turned to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), a Dutch Member of the world’s largest support network for SMEs – the Enterprise Europe Network.
Stan Francke from the RVO had previous expertise in fast tracking Dutch SMEs and saw great potential in Heliox: "Heliox is a strong company with a disruptive technology. They had good technical knowhow and all the capabilities on board to supply top of the range solutions but needed extra expertise on how to enter the market for electric vehicles and especially certain foreign markets."
The Network’s tailored support helped Heliox secure EUR 1.5 million in funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 SME Instrument programme which is designed to help innovative small firms with high growth potential. As part of the services offered by the programme, the Network identified two business innovation coaches to advise Heliox on how it could reduce its operational costs and refine its business plan for international markets.
"Heliox wanted to approach markets in the UK and Ireland but they didn’t know how to do that effectively. Besides information on the market, how the tender system for public transport system works there and who were the important bus manufacturers, public transport and electric infrastructure operators, they needed expertise to establish a sound market entry strategy," said Francke.
The first coach helped develop a strategy for potential European markets and Heliox has since begun delivering environmental friendly public transport solutions in Finland, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany. The second coach looked for customers even further abroad; in the US, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
Thanks to the Network’s support, Heliox have been able to take a massive step forward in reducing their costs and accessing new markets. The Dutch SME is now in a position to revolutionise public transportation systems all around the world.
"We are just one piece of the puzzle for a cleaner world," said Smidt. "But with this piece in place we now have an ecological and economical business case for electric vehicles, which means all the emissions inside cities created by buses can be something of the past."