French battery recycling startup Mecaware has announced a €40m Series A.
The deal — a mix of equity, debt and state subsidies — will enable Mecaware to start scaling its technology and deploy a pre-industrial pilot as part of a partnership with Verkor, one of Europe’s best-funded gigafactories.
It was led by French VC Crédit Mutuel Innovation, followed by SPI2, a fund dedicated to industrial projects that is managed by public investment bank Bpifrance. Returning investors included sustainable energy firm EIT InnoEnergy, UI Investissement, Kreaxi and BNP Paribas Création.
Mecaware says that its technology is able to extract and re-use metals from old batteries, as well as from the waste produced at battery manufacturing plants, which have high scrap ratios.
Gigafactories waste as much as 30% of the batteries they produce, according to estimates, and as plants multiply across Europe, Mecaware expects rapid growth while also enabling manufacturers to source part of the metals needed to produce batteries locally.
“There are projects to build gigafactories everywhere in Europe,” says the startup cofounder Arnaud Villers d’Arbouet. “And they need to source raw materials — lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese.”
“We will reproduce these metals and feed the sector locally.”
Recycling metals with CO2
Battery recycling is not new, but Mecaware says that its technology — which uses CO2 to prompt a chemical reaction in dissolved battery cells, through which different metals can be filtered out one after the other — costs half as much as other recycling techniques.
It means that instead of building large centralised recycling plants, Mecaware will be able to implement smaller sites near waste deposits to recycle locally.
It is also more environmentally friendly, according to Villers d’Arbouet, because it doesn’t generate any polluting discharge.
The startup currently only processes waste in batches of just one kilogram. But with a fresh injection of cash, Mecaware will move into pre-industrial production levels and is aiming to process 100 tons of waste per year by mid-2025 — making for about 50 tons of metal.
The startup will launch two separate pre-industrial pilots, one focused on recycling gigafactory scrap and the other recycling end-of-life batteries.
The first will take place alongside Verkor’s gigafactory, which is planned to become operational by 2025, and the second working with organisations that collect discarded batteries from alarm clocks to electric bikes, as well as with car manufacturers to deploy local recycling plants.
Reducing European dependence
Europe is currently dependent on importing the metals that are necessary to make batteries. For example, almost half of lithium is produced in Chile and 39% in China.
At the same time, it is estimated that demand for these metals could multiply by 40 in the next 20 years.
Recycling won’t fully solve the problem. Even if a 100% recycling rate is achieved for any given metal, increasing demand means that primary production will still be necessary, according to the European Commission.
But Mecaware’s pitch remains popular with the French government. The company’s latest round included state subsidies as part of a €950m pot of money that the government has dedicated to new initiatives in the production and recycling of materials that are critical for batteries.