Startup Spotlight: Here's How Abu Dhabi-Based Heidron Energy Solutions Is Producing Lighter (And Cheaper) Batteries For Electric Vehicles
By offering Li-ion batteries made out of Silicon anodes, Abu Dhabi-based Heidron Energy Solutions is looking to create a less complex and much cheaper way to produce energy sources for electric vehicles.
This article is part of an ongoing series covering startups that have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.
Electric vehicles (EVs) may be all the rage nowadays, most of which are run on lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Keeping that in mind, if we are to look at ways to enhancing these rides of the future, we perhaps need to start with figuring out how we can better these energy sources- and that's something Dr. Daniel Choi, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Khalifa University of Science and Technology, is well-versed in. You see, Dr. Choi has been able to garner extensive knowledge on Li-ion batteries thanks to his work on a project sponsored by the UAE Space Agency, and that's also what led him to become a co-founder alongside Sheikh Hamdan Bin Isa Al Nahyan, Rashed Ahmed Al Fahim, and Mohamed Ahmed Al Fahim of the Abu Dhabi-based startup, Heidron Energy Solutions.
"Heidron Energy Solutions was established in 2021 with the main aim of developing the most advanced state-of-the-art energy storage devices and materials," Al Nahyan explains. "The founding team was inspired by the work done by Dr. Choi on the development of Li-ion batteries for space applications. What Heidron thus aims to do is create advanced batteries that are safer, lighter, cheaper, and more efficient for use in EVs and other energy storage applications."
Sheikh Hamdan bin Isa Al Nahyan, co-founder and Chairman, Heidron Energy Solutions. Source: Heidron Energy Solutions
As an enterprise that's thus working on cutting-edge tech that can have global impact, Al Nahyan, who is also the Chairman of Heidron, believes that the UAE is the perfect launchpad for the company. "Our inspiration comes from the belief that the UAE is positioned with all the resources needed to provide the world with novel technologies that have the potential to disrupt many sectors," Al Nahyan says. "We believe that all the tools required for success are readily available, and people must take advantage of these opportunities."
Rechargeable Li-ion batteries, which are often used in daily-use electrical devices such as cellphones and computers, have become extremely popular in the tech landscape owing to their high energy capacities and excellent performances at even high temperatures. But an issue that remains for battery manufacturers is to ensure the longevity of their products. It is here that Heidron aims to bring in their expertise to produce, what is said to be, the most promising version of Li-ion batteries: those made out of silicon anodes. To understand its significance, a brush-up of high school science may be necessary. Batteries are made up of three parts: an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte. With the claim that it offers "unique, cost-effective, less time-consuming, and novel battery technologies," the Heidron team is aiming to enable mass production of Li-ion batteries using its own solid-state flexible electrolyte membranes.
Rashed Ahmed Al Fahim, co-founder and CEO, Heidron Energy Solutions. Source: Heidron Energy Solutions
But a Li-on battery, specifically using an anode made out of silicon, offers plenty of advantages over the traditionally used graphite anodes- and that's why Heidron believes it's onto a winner. "Heidron is currently working with Khalifa University to further perfect its battery technologies, particularly in the areas of all-solid-state energy storage devices and advanced energy materials such as silicon anodes for applications in EVs and other electronics," Mohamed, who is the COO of Heidron, explains. "Our solutions would make batteries less complex and cheaper to produce by up to 50% of current manufacturing methods, reduce battery weights by around 40%, and would also increase cyclic stability. We are already planning on developing our first demonstration facility for the production of high energy density silicon anodes. This would open doors for us to partner with a large number of sectors such as aerospace, electric vehicles, space, medical devices, consumer electronics, and more."
At the same time, the silicon anode market offers a lot of potential for growth too. "It is interesting to know that only three companies in the world dominate this market," Mohamed says. "These companies include BTR New Energy Material (China) with 50% market share, Shin-Etsu Chemical (Japan) with 30% market share, and Daejoo Electronic Materials (South Korea) with a 10% market share. Heidron believes that its silicon anodes could compete in many areas such as pricing and quality with current competitors. The silicon anode market is growing rapidly, and Heidron aims to be at the forefront of innovation within the next five years, by partnering with major EV battery manufacturers in order to utilize the benefits of silicon anodes, such as faster charging speeds and increased range."
Mohamed Ahmed Al Fahim, co-founder and COO, Heidron Energy Solutions. Source: Heidron Energy Solutions
Currently in its pre-revenue stage, Heidron hasn't gained customers yet, but it's already making its presence felt in the sector it operates in, both in the UAE and abroad. "We are working closely with industry partners to provide them with solutions that meet their own requirements," Mohamed says. "For example, we are improving our solid-state flexible batteries to withstand extreme weather shifts for space applications. This is being done in collaboration with stakeholders within the space sector. Moving forward, Heidron will also be working on licensing some of its intellectual properties with companies in multiple industries."
Looking back on his startup's journey so far, Rashed, who is the CEO of Heidron, says that the company has had to jump through its fair share of loops through the course of its entrepreneurial trajectory. "These challenges included obtaining research and development (R&D) grants, hiring the best talents and access to certain machinery for R&D work," Rashed says. "However, being based in the UAE has benefited us greatly. We were able to utilize amazing talent within local universities that included both Emiratis and UAE residents, and the universities even allowed us access to many crucial machinery needed for our R&D work that would have cost us a fortune. We were truly blessed!"
Dr. Daniel Choi, co-founder and technical lead, Heidron Energy Solutions. Source: Heidron Energy Solutions
Another advantage of being located in the UAE was Heidron's access to (and acceptance in) the MBRIF accelerator program. "The MBRIF program has provided us with access to really great mentors and solutions that have actively assisted us in overcoming some of the key challenges we were facing," Rashed declares.
With plenty of work to do now in terms of gaining customers and bagging projects, the Heidron team aims to keep innovation at the heart of their company's vision. "It takes the efforts of hardworking individuals to guarantee that we all have the necessary tools we need to be able to more effectively operate in this day and age of rapid technological advancement, and we try to work with the most innovative people and entities to make sure that happens," Rashed says. "Collaboration is the key to success, and we will always be open to work with companies that intend to make a positive impact in the world."