Energy storage

The startups charging forward in Europe

Last updated: 2 Nov 2023

Market 101

Power storage is one of the key hurdles to carbon-free electricity. Renewable energy can’t always give us the juice right when we need it — the sun won’t shine, nor will the wind blow, on demand. But if we can figure out how to save this intermittent energy for longer, it can become as reliable as coal.

Most storage solutions today depend on lithium-ion batteries, which are powerful but relatively expensive. This high cost has held some companies back, but others are making the tech work. For instance, Polarium — a startup in Sweden’s booming battery industry — provides back-up lithium-ion power to telecom and commercial sectors. The company says its USP is how it efficiently converts the direct current produced by solar panels to the alternating current needed by most appliances.

But dozens of companies are looking beyond lithium — and the race quickened after prices soared for lithium raw materials last year, as the effect of wars and the lingering pandemic dogged supply chains. Investment in new batteries in Europe is forecast to reach €30bn by 2030, as the region readies itself for a renewables future.

The search for a stable, cost-effective lithium alternative is wide-ranging. Startups including France’s Tiamat are making salt-based batteries; sodium’s right beside lithium on the periodic table, so it’s not only similar, but it’s also more abundant and cheaper. On the flipside, sodium’s energy density is relatively low, meaning batteries using salt need to be bigger and heavier than their lithium counterparts.

Then there’s “gravity power”, which mimics hydropower by capturing the energy of falling weight. Scotland’s Gravitricity trialled its version of this idea in Edinburgh port in 2021, and hopes to one day create electricity by dropping weights down disused mine shafts. Backers say a key advantage of this approach is a longer service life (rival lithium-ion batteries start to degrade after a few years).

Meanwhile, the world’s first commercial “sand battery”, developed by Polar Night Energy, went live in Finland last year. As the name suggests, the idea here is to store electricity within sand in the form of heat, which can then be tapped when required.

All these energy storage efforts are exciting but need to become way cheaper in order to scale. Then again, it was never going to be easy to replace the current energy system, which runs pretty efficiently — apart from the whole frying the Earth thing.

Early stage market map

Key facts

20x

expected increase in grid-scale energy storage in Europe by 20311

10.5GW

of battery energy storage capacity expected by the end of 20232

7%

bump in lithium-ion battery prices in 2022, the first increase in 12 years3

Startups tracked by Sifted

Sifted take

We’re talking batteries here — so of course there’s positives and minuses. The energy transition can feel daunting and it will be a long road for certain battery products to prove themselves (it took around 30 years for lithium ion to become a mainstream battery in cars, for example). Still, on the positive side, this is a sector with many niches and the potential for multiple winners. It’s also a world with increased investor attention: VC funding in European energy storage in 2023 is up 7% compared to 2022. A carbon-free grid is getting easier to imagine: it’s just a question of how to get there in time.

Rising stars

Italvolt

Battery Materials Development

Total funding

€25m

Milan, Italy
2020

This startup is building Italy’s first battery-cell manufacturing gigafactory with a capacity of up to 45GW hours.

Round

Seed

Valuation

Undisclosed


Date

2023

Size

€10m

EH Group

Sustainable Battery Solutions

Total funding

€5.7m

Nyon, Switzerland
2017

Swiss startup building hydrogen fuel cells, backed by AP Ventures, the European Innovation Council and investment bank UBS, among others.

Round

Seed

Valuation

Undisclosed


Date

2021

Size

€4.2m

Nanom (Greenvolt)

Battery Materials Development

Total funding

€3.5m

Reykjavík, Iceland
2017

Nanotech startup helping improve battery charge times and capacity for energy storage solutions.

Round

Seed

Valuation

Undisclosed


Date

2021

Size

€2.7m

Bold Valuable Technology

Engineering and Manufacturing Services

Total funding

€2.3m

Barcelona, Spain
2019

High-performance battery applications using technology seen in Formula 1 cars for energy storage use cases.

Round

Seed

Valuation

Undisclosed


Date

2022

Size

€2.3m

Early stage startups to watch

Bold Valuable Technology

Barcelona, Spain
2019
Seed

2.3m

2.3m

-

BroadBit Batteries

Espoo, Finland
2015
Grant

3.3m

2.5m

-

Cellfion AB

Norrköpings, Sweden
2021
Seed

1.3m

1.3m

-

EH Group

Nyon, Switzerland
2017
Seed

5.7m

4.2m

-

Geniess

Oslo, Norway
2021
Pre-seed

600k

500k

-

Gilytics Ag

Zurich, Switzerland
2017
Seed

1.1m

830k

-

Gouach

Bordeaux, France
2018
Pre-seed

2.6m

2.1m

8m

Italvolt SpA

Milan, Italy
2021
Seed

25m

10

120m

Nanom (Greenvolt)

Reykjavík, Iceland
2017
Seed

3.5m

2.7m

-

Polar Night Energy

Tampere, Finland
2018
Pre-seed

1.3m

550k

-

Polare Group

Geneva, Switzerland
2021
Angel

10

100k

1.5m

Rivus Batteries

Gothenburg, Sweden
2019
Seed

1m

525k

-

Swistor

Lausanne, Switzerland
2022
Grant

900k

900k

-

TioTech AS

Bergen, Norw
2016
Seed

5m

1.5m

-

VANEVO

Oldenburg, Germany
2018
Grant

4.2m

1.7m

-

Europe’s success stories

Who early stage startups are up against

(Pre-)Seed

SeriesA

SeriesB

SeriesC

SeriesD+

IPO/Exit

Startup that runs grid-scale batteries and provides charging and battery infrastructure for electric fleets. Includes KKR, Natwest, Santander, Rabobank and others on its investor cap table.

(Pre-)Seed

SeriesA

SeriesB

SeriesC

SeriesD+

IPO/Exit

French leader in distributed energy storage backed by RGreen Invest. It raised a €300m round in June 2022.

(Pre-)Seed

SeriesA

SeriesB

SeriesC

SeriesD+

IPO/Exit

Energy storage developer producing lithium-ion technology, backed by Sweden’s Vargas Holding, which has H2 Green Steel cofounder Harald Mix as chairman.

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