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HROT: Lubos Hajský's entrepreneurial journey: from lampshades to lights to hydrogen

The Czech weekly HROT is one of the top Czech magazines focused on business and economy. In its issue 15/2021, the magazine provided a comprehensive window into the situation of the Czech hydrogen infrastructure and introduced several companies that are helping to create it in the Czech Republic.

The Czech weekly HROT is one of the top Czech magazines focused on business and economy. In its issue 15/2021, the magazine provided a comprehensive window into the situation of the Czech hydrogen infrastructure and introduced several companies that are helping to create it in the Czech Republic. The weekly also focused on the founder and CEO of DEVINN, Lubos Hajský, who was featured in a detailed medallion Luboš Hajský's entrepreneurial journey: from lampshades to lights to hydrogen was introduced by commentator Jan Brož.

The history of toy production in the Hračkárna in Mladá Boleslav began in the 1930s. Originally, two First Republic entrepreneurs produced wooden cars here and a few similar ones can be seen in the newly renovated premises today. However, they serve only as an imaginative decoration of the development centre of the company Devinn, which is run by Luboš and Věra Hajští. In Devinn, too, everything revolves around "little cars". But the customers are not little boys like in the first half of the 20th century, but Škoda Auto.

In the seven years since its inception, Devinn has grown to a company with 100 employees and a turnover of 160 million. The company made its breakthrough primarily through the development and testing of LED lights for the Mladá Boleslav car factory, but now its scope is much broader and extends to hydrogen technologies, which are now at the heart not only of the automotive industry, but of the entire energy sector.

DEVINN founder Luboš Hajský presents the H2BASE hydrogen generator
DEVINN founder Luboš Hajský presents the H2BASE hydrogen generator. Photo: Tomáš Novák, HROT

Luboš Hajský's entrepreneurial journey began in the 1990s as a maintenance worker for Lukov Plast in Český Dub. Even with his help, the company managed to build a major supplier to the automotive industry with 340 employees, whose main product today is a sun visor for cars. This earned Hajský the position of technical director and a quarter shareholder.

However, as he says, once the automated mass production was fully up and running, he got a bit tired of the work. "The development path is awfully nice, but then it gets into mass production, which needs to be looked after, and then it's not so much fun. At that point I thought I'd try something of my own," says the 47-year-old entrepreneur.

He then sold his share in Lukov Plast to the remaining owners, but a competition clause prevented him from plunging straight back into the world of the automotive industry. He therefore looked for Elkop Technik, a specialist manufacturer of heating elements for industrial machinery in Jablonec, which lost customers and ran into problems after the death of the original owner. He spent three years putting the company back together. He managed to raise the turnover from the original six to today's 15 million crowns. Once Elkop Technik was fully operational, Hajský began to think about how to take advantage of the former cooperation with Skoda Auto and return to the development he enjoys most. And so Devinn was born.

The young company wanted to avoid focusing on products that competitors also make and then competing in a tough price battle. An opportunity presented itself in the form of LED headlights, which were then beginning to proliferate in the automotive world, but no one had much experience with them. "It was something completely new for everyone. Since the component of light is not thermal radiation, the thermodynamics are also completely different. The classic halogen light heats up the space, it ventilates and it works beautifully. But with LEDs, there was a problem with fogging of the lights, it was a completely new discipline and a terribly complex issue," explains Hajský.

Therefore, the company built a climate chamber for testing LED lights in the most extreme conditions and started offering them to companies. At the same time, it took advantage of the domestic glass industry and started the development of highly specialised headlights for motorsport. Its lights were fitted, for example, to a limited series of twelve-cylinder Škoda R5 racing cars.

It also appeared on the Škoda 130 LR, with which the pair Ondřej Klymčiw and Petr Vlček took part in this year's Dakar Rally. "Ondřej Klymčiw called us. He said he heard that we can make lights. He added that he was leaving on Saturday," says Hajský. It was Thursday. In Devinn, they still put the lights together for the competitors in record time.

A couple of years ago, Hajský and his colleagues started looking for another niche where, like with LED headlights, they would have no competition. Originally, they came up with the idea of making a mobile charger for electric cars based on the principle of a conventional battery. However, the idea fell through because of the high weight such a vehicle would have to have.

Coincidentally, a distant relative, Karin Stehlík, the director of the HYTEP hydrogen platform, invited them to the ÚJV Řež, where she worked. Hajský and Devinn's head of development, Karel Souček, initially took it as an interesting opportunity to see the research reactor. However, once they were on site to learn about hydrogen technology, they stopped being interested altogether. They realised that hydrogen could be the answer to the problem of high battery weight.

Over time, they actually designed a car equipped with a system that converts hydrogen into electricity, which can then be recharged by electric cars. At the same time, they began to focus on developing a modular hydrogen source. Last year, they completed the device called H2BASE. It consists of three easily transportable, pallet-sized modules, one containing the hydrogen containers, one containing the fuel cells, and the third containing the output terminals for various types of electricity consumption. The modules are chainable to each other and therefore adaptable to whether more power or longer consumption is required.

The device can be used as a clean and quiet source of electricity at construction sites or various cultural events in city centres. "A market is forming. But it will be interesting wherever there is a need to go green. If hospitals, prisons or regional offices want to expand, for example, they can use H2BASE as a backup source. They will no longer have the option of supplementing it with a diesel generator," says Hajský. In addition, the company has launched a project to add modules for hydrogen production itself. Once completed, Devinn will therefore be able to offer the entire process.

However, experiments with hydrogen have also involved trips to Germany or the UK, where specialist hydrogen facilities are operating. This was both time and money consuming. Devinn therefore built the first commercial hydrogen centre in the Czech Republic in Jablonec nad Nisou for CZK 1.5 million, where various hydrogen technologies can be tested. The company is now ready to provide this to both academia and private sector competitors. According to Hajský, there is no room for rivalry in a sector that is still emerging in the Czech Republic. "This is not the time to compete, so we help each other," says the developer.

Theoriginal version of the article can be found on the website of Hrot magazine. You can read more about the potential of hydrogen in the Czech Republic in the print edition of Hrot, which was published on Monday 12 April 2021.

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