In less than a decade, Heliox has grown into a renowned and global company that develops reliable power conversion systems for, amongst others, public transport companies, port and construction equipment manufacturers, the high end consumer market and the healthcare sector. Since Heliox was founded in 2009, DEKRA has performed much of the safety testing of Heliox' extensive product portfolio.
"We started out with a team of four serving only two customers. Today, Heliox has more than 60 employees at its headquarters and cooperates with some of the world’s largest companies around the globe," says Aswin Linden, Director Development at Heliox.
Heliox supplies reputable companies around the world with innovative power conversion solutions. Shortly after Heliox was founded, the company realized that its experience and knowledge gained in the high-end consumer electronics market could be implemented in other markets, like healthcare and fast charging solutions.
Today, the company is active in, amongst others, high end consumer, renewable energy, healthcare, chargers for port, mining and construction vehicles. A large part of the company's product portfolio consists of made-to-measure charging solutions for public transport companies.
How did you end up in the automotive sector?
Aswin: "Our focus has always been on the development of fast charging and battery solutions for many different types of devices. Our expertise is in that. Shortly after our founding, we ran into a Dutch company that was looking for a smarter automotive charger.
Even though we had never been active in that sector, we had plenty of knowledge and were up to the challenge to provide them with what they needed. And so the Heliox automotive story began."
After their "test" project, word went around. Not long after, Heliox delivered their first charger prototype to VDL, an industrial and manufacturing company in Eindhoven, the Netherlands in 2014. Today, Europe’s largest e-bus fleet (43 in total) in the city of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, has been in full operation for well over a year, receiving its “juice” through Heliox' ultra fast charging infrastructure.
Aswin: "At the end of 2017, we built the world's largest opportunity and depot charge network with 13MW of installed power for well over 100 buses at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We are working on several other projects in the Netherlands, as well as in Germany, France, Finland, Luxembourg, Turkey and Singapore.
"And the list goes on. Furthermore, we are not only active in the public transport sector. Currently, we are developing and delivering chargers for construction and port equipment as well as part of automated processes for Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs)."
What are some challenges you are facing?
Aswin: "One challenge is to overcome initial sluggishness in acceptance. Using our chargers in, for example, a large sea port is extremely efficient. You can guide AGVs (Automatic Guided Vehicles) to their charging station automatically, have them connect to the Heliox ultra fast charging infrastructure autonomously, and let them charge without any delay or human intervention.
"Automation is becoming more and more crucial; our power conversion solutions offer exactly the flexibility many operators need. However, in public transport diesel has been king of the streets for decades. You can imagine that bus drivers need additional training to learn how to drive an electric bus, what influence charging has on their work and schedules, and how to show the passengers the extra comfort."
"Another challenge we have is to keep developing the technologies inside our chargers", Aswin adds. "For example, if all 100 buses at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol need to be recharged at the same time, you would need 14MW of power. That's an immense amount of power. So how do we manage that? We have developed a concept we call 'smart charging': by setting up communication between the buses and the charging stations we can flexibly divide the amount of power required throughout the day and per bus, adapted to the public transport schedule.
"In theory, you will never reach peak loads. When one bus is charging and is good to go for another round, another bus arrives that has just ended its route, charging to, for example, eighty five percent. This then leaves room for one more bus that will need a twelve percent charge in, say, twenty minutes, depending on its schedule. It's amazing that we can make that happen."
Where does safety come into the picture?
Aswin: "Like I just mentioned, keeping the users of our products and the environment safe under all possible conditions is the primary function of our systems. Our products range from 25kW to 600kW charging power; with these kinds of power levels we highlight this even more.
"We have worked with DEKRA for quite some time to make sure we live up to those expectations. DEKRA tests voltages, powers, insulation, range, and the internal safety of the charger (temperatures, creepage distances, etc.) according to specific, well-recognized standards. In addition, DEKRA tests the communication protocol between the charger and the bus with support from Heliox. Our working relationship has been great for many years so we are definitely planning to continue working together."
Vincent Roes, Innovation Manager at DEKRA, adds: "Heliox develops a range of very innovative products which are very new to the market. Our automotive heritage and strong background in electrical safety testing really add value here, because we are able to help bridge these two completely different worlds. Before Heliox launches a product, our support helps them prepare in the best way possible."
What will the future of mobility bring according to you?
Aswin: "Well, it might still take some time, but we are estimating that within the next five to ten years you will be able to charge your car as fast as you can fuel up. An exciting scenario of which the outcome will mostly depend on supply and demand: currently, batteries have not developed enough to allow personal vehicles with lighter batteries to charge that fast.
"On the other hand, charging technologies are developing rapidly as well. Today, batteries are coming up that allow for charging with nearly 20 times the total power of the battery. Exciting times ahead, that I can say."