Hibra Design is the first and only Irish automotive design engineering company, focused on the de-carbonisation of industrial vehicles by engineering Battery Electric and Hydrogen Fuel Cell solutions.
Hibra Design is one of eight start-ups chosen to take part in this year’s Bord na Móna Accelerate Green programme.
The programme is Ireland’s leading sustainability programme designed to scale-up companies who are developing products and services based on green innovation in response to climate action and sustainability challenges.
“We de-carbonise industrial vehicles by engineering Battery Electric and Hydrogen Fuel Cell solutions. This allows industrial companies to reduce operational costs, the fuel bill is reduce by over 50%, the maintenance bill is reduced by over 75% and environmental legislative costs are eliminated entirely”
The current cohort of businesses employ over 70 people with turnover of more than €5m.
The eight start-ups will be at the upcoming Accelerate Green conference entitled ‘Ireland’s Sustainable Future’ on 1 June 2023 at the Tullamore Court Hotel. Click here to learn more.
A real-world solution
Hibra Design is an automotive design engineering company. They reengineer off-highway, speciality vehicles by removing the diesel powertrain and developing bespoke sustainable alternative systems such Battery Electric or Hydrogen Fuel Cell powertrains. This helps operators to reduce operational costs and increase productivity while providing healthier working environments.
“Hibra Design is the first and only Irish automotive design engineering company, focused in this area,” said founder Mike Keane. “We de-carbonise industrial vehicles by engineering Battery Electric and Hydrogen Fuel Cell solutions. This allows industrial companies to reduce operational costs, the fuel bill is reduce by over 50%, the maintenance bill is reduced by over 75% and environmental legislative costs are eliminated entirely. Alongside this the solutions produce healthier working environments and increase production efficiency.”
Keane pointed out that in Ireland alone, there are over 6500 vehicles operating across different industry verticals such as ground handling, quarrying and mining and power generation.
“Operators are experiencing exponentially increasing operational costs due to rising fossil-fuel prices. Coupled to this, the environmental legislation is placing stringent limitations on carbon-emissions with punitive fines and restrictions.
“However, for the operators, there are very few clean technology alternatives existing from existing manufacturers.
“Hibra Design provides a real-world solution for this problem.”
Driving the future
Hibra Design is developing a suite of modular, scalable, powertrains that can be integrated to a wide range of vehicles.
“In 2023, we will launch a pilot programme of first developed vehicle and we will launch our production operations,” Keane explained.
“Operational industrial vehicles will be built and engineered with new battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell powertrains.
“By developing a suite of modular powertrains, the development cost can be amortised across a high volume of vehicles.
“This allows the fleet operating client to benefit from significant capital equipment savings in comparison with a conventional diesel replacement vehicle.
“The clean technology powertrains offers immediate operational cost reductions.”
In the driving seat
Hibra Design was founded in 2022 by Keane following more than 20 years’ experience leading high-calibre automotive programmes.
“I have held senior technical roles on vehicle programmes for OEMS such as Ford, Williams F1, Nissan, Rover, Aston Martin, Land Rover, Jaguar, Liebherr and Magna; encompassing a range of use profiles: road, HGV, LGV, industrial, off-highway, motorsport and public transportation.
“I have led multi-disciplinary teams, delivering innovative vehicles with electric, hybrid, internal combustion or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle platforms, driving the development of original and inventive technologies from blank-sheet through to production.
“I have led the engineering function of automotive start-up companies, including companies pivoting established technologies from other industries, requiring a balance of cost and time efficiency, knowledge of regulatory requirements and robust development procedures.
“That deep technical and industry sector experience identified a critical, unserviced demand and market opportunity and I launched Hibra Design to service this need.”
Keane’s impressions of the Irish start-up ecosystem is that it is broad and supportive.
“That support can be seen in business development, mentoring and advice, and funding support.
“I am currently on the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers and the Bord Na Mona Accelerate Green accelerator programmes.
“Both programmes have rapidly sharpened the business value proposition and helped to ensure that the business plan is focussed to match a validated market requirement.
“Coupled with this LEO has been helpful in providing mentoring assistance and grant funding for specific activities such as website development.”
To stay agile as a business, Keane recommends that a robust CRM is critical. “There are many ready-built programmes available but fundamentally a well organised database is required.”
Keane said that Hibra Design is currently raising seed funding for its 2023 pilot programme.
“We are speaking a number of individual investors and investment syndicate groups.”
His advice to fellow founders is to validate the market before building a product. “The biggest mistake I made was when I previously started a business in 2004, I set up the business and focused on developing a product before I had robustly validated the market.
“This was a key error and was a sharp learning in the difference between a good idea and a good business idea.
“The solution must be backed up by a clear and defined market need.”
His advice for founders is to think always of the value being added for the customer. “Do not focus on the technical or product solution. Assume that you will overcome the developmental problems and put effort into understanding the market need, the benefit to the customer; and understanding how you will see to the customer.”
Main image at top: Hibra founder Mike Keane
To learn more about attending the Accelerate Green conference ‘Ireland’s Sustainable Future 2023 on 1 June at the Tullamore Court Hotel click here