Halifax’s Zen Electric Bikes, which works with prominent Dalhousie University battery scientist Jeff Dahn, has won $100,000 of non-dilutive funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, or SDTC.

Founded last year by battery scientists and businessmen Ravi Kempaiah, Somu Kumar and Paul Daniel, Zen aims to improve the efficiency of electric bike batteries. The company’s research is overseen by Dahn, who previously presided over automotive giant Tesla’s Advanced Battery Research group. Zen Electric is also advised by Chris Burns, CEO of Australian battery unicorn Novonix, where Dahn also serves as Chief Scientific Advisor.

“Electrification of transport offers an opportunity to transform our future," said SDTC Chief Executive Leah Lawrence in a statement. "SDTC is proud to support Zen E-Bikes, a seed company that uses its cutting-edge technologies to produce net-zero alternatives for urban transportation.“

SDTC is a federal govenement agency that provides funding to cleantech companies that are developing sustainable technologies.  

Most electric bike batteries are designed to last only a year or two before they start to degrade, with warranties expiring at the same point. The resulting cast-off batteries are projected to create about 120 million kilograms of hazardous waste by 2025, Zen said in its press release.

The company’s goal is to extend the useful lifespan of electric bike batteries to about eight years, reducing waste and limiting strain on battery recycling infrastructure. 

Extending the lifespans of the batteries could also lessen pressure on the already-strained supply chains of metals including cobalt and nickel. And Zen expects a better battery life to yield an associated increase in consumer confidence for the still-nascent e-bike industry.

Zen says the e-bike market is one of the fastest growing markets in North America, and is expected to hit $40 billion by 2025. Zen added that pre-orders for its e-bikes are now live and the company will begin to ship to customers next month from its new warehouse in Dartmouth.

The company added in its press release that it plans to spend some of the money it makes to offset the harm caused by cobalt mining in poor regions such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, including by funding education and food assistance programs. Last year, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Illinois’s Northwestern University found that communities in the DRC that played host to cobalt mines saw increases in violence, substance abuse, food and water insecurity and other public health problems.