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May 15, 2024

Cylib raises €55m Series A for lithium-ion battery recycling

The startup will use the money to build a large-scale industrial facility in Germany

German battery recycling startup Cylib has raised €55m in a Series A funding round led by European climate tech VC World Fund and Porsche Ventures, the venture arm of sports car manufacturer Porsche AG. Bosch Ventures, Germany’s €1bn deep tech and climate tech fund (DTCF) and NRW.Venture participated along with existing investors Vsquared Ventures, Speedinvest and 10x Founders.

The all-equity deal will enable Cylib — which recycles lithium-ion batteries — to start scaling its technology at an already-secured brownfield industrial facility in Germany, near Aachen where the company is based. 

Cylib says its technology can recycle every component in a lithium-ion battery, recovering elements such as lithium, cobalt and graphite. This enables manufacturers in Europe to source part of the metals needed to produce batteries locally, instead of importing them from overseas.

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Battery recycling is also necessary to manage increasing numbers of end-of-life batteries that in some cases end up in landfill. According to research institution Fraunhofer ISI, the volume of lithium-ion batteries needing to be recycled in Europe will reach 2,100 kilotonnes by 2040.

Recycling batteries with water 

Battery recycling isn’t a new concept but Cylib says its technology — which uses a water-based process to recover lithium, graphite and other metals — is much more sustainable and cost-effective than using chemicals. 

The startup says its ability to recover all elements from a battery gives it an edge over its competitors who tend to focus on a small part of the value chain. Recovering more elements from the battery also means the company has more elements to sell to clients.

Cylib is already working with automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in Europe and Asia and some lithium refineries, which have historically relied on sourcing the element from extraction sites, known as primary products.

“There are a lot of refineries who deal with, let’s say, primary products, but they are expanding their scope to use recycled lithium because this is added value to them,” says Lilian Schwich, cofounder and CEO of Cylib.

In the future, Cylib is planning to purify recycled lithium into battery grade itself and then sell it to gigafactories to produce batteries. It’s a doubly beneficial partnership as gigafactories produce the batteries that Cylib then recycles.

“(Gigafactories) are the ideal customer because such gigafactories can supply us with materials to run our process, and then we can resell the lithium back to them so that we have a fully integrated circuit,” says Schwich.

Building an industrial facility

Cylib was founded in 2022 after nearly a decade of research at German technical university RWTH Aachen. Within 11 months of launching, the startup opened a pilot plant in Aachen which has a daily recycling volume of 300-500kg. To put it into perspective, the Tesla model 3’s long-range battery pack weighs approximately 480kg.

Cylib will use part of its latest investment to build its first industrial facility of approximately 20k square metres. Its initial recycling capacity will be 10k tonnes per year, which will slowly be increased throughout the next two years.

The company has 60 employees and plans to hire another 20-30 people by the end of the year. 

To help Cylib scale, COO Gideon Schwich says that the possibility of the state giving public guarantees to banks to help startups access debt financing will be important. 

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“Banks are totally willing to give debt if they don’t have to take the full risk,” he says.

He adds that Europe has to find a way to be competitive with other countries. In the US, for example, startups are able to access big grants and receive loans through the Department of Energy (DOE).

For instance, Redwood Materials, a US company which recycles lithium-ion batteries to create battery materials, received a $2bn loan from the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office to support the construction of its first battery materials campus.

“That is something we see as very important for the next steps and for scaling in Europe and elsewhere,” Gideon Schwich says. “We see the willingness, but you just have to bring the pieces together.” 

Miriam Partington

Miriam Partington is a reporter at Sifted. She covers the DACH region and the future of work, and coauthors Startup Life , a weekly newsletter on what it takes to build a startup. Follow her on X and LinkedIn