Cylib Aims to Lead EV Battery Recycling in Europe

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A wave of battery recycling startups has sprung up across Europe, aiming to address the next major prospect in the EV sector: battery waste.

One notable player is Cylib, a Germany-based startup with an enticing proposal for automakers. The company claims it can recover pure forms of all materials in a battery using significantly less energy compared to its competitors.

Cylib asserts it can reclaim all elements from EV and micromobility batteries, as well as production scrap, including lithium, cobalt, nickel, aluminum, and manganese, using 30% less energy than rival companies.

Cylib CEO and co-founder Lilian Schwich believes this unique approach will give the startup an advantage over better-resourced competitors with more extensive value chains, such as Sweden’s Northvolt and the U.S.-based Redwood Materials. Massachusetts-based Ascend Elements recently expanded into Europe via a joint venture with Polish startup Elemental.

Cylib’s innovative methods have garnered support from investors in climate, deep tech, and automotive sectors. Lilian Schwich, who spent over a decade researching efficient battery recycling methods at RWTH Aachen University, founded the startup in 2022.

Earlier this month, Cylib raised €55 million in a Series A round led by World Fund and Porsche Ventures, the VC arm of Porsche. Bosch Ventures, DeepTech & Climate Fonds, NRW.Venture, and others also joined the funding round.

The funds will be used to develop an industrial-scale facility in Aachen, set to launch in 2026, and expand Cylib’s current team of 60 employees. Over time, Cylib plans to extend its operations beyond Germany to other European markets.

“In our seed round, we raised €7.6 million, which helped us build a pilot facility where we can already recycle a single EV battery pack per day, approximately 300 to 600 kilograms,” said Gideon Schwich, Cylib’s co-founder and COO and husband of Lilian Schwich, in an interview with Truth Voices. “A Tesla battery weighs around 300 kilograms, while a Porsche battery is roughly 600 kilograms.”

Capacity today, cathodes tomorrow

Cylib has already forged partnerships with automotive OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, and lithium refineries to secure battery production scrap for immediate recycling needs. These collaborations are essential for Cylib’s long-term success, guaranteeing access to end-of-life EV batteries for future recycling.

Securing feedstock like batteries and production scrap is crucial for Cylib to demonstrate its capability to manage industrial-scale recycling.

“The problem with battery recycling is, if you don’t have capacity, major players won’t provide feedstock,” said Anil Achuyta, managing director of TDK Ventures, the venture arm of TDK Corporation, in an interview with Truth Voices. “And without feedstock, you can’t build capacity.”

Achuyta noted that TDK Ventures, which invests in Cylib competitor Ascend Elements, helped prove its worth in 2021 by making a significant market investment, building capacity, and acquiring feedstock. Today, Ascend’s U.S. facility can process 26,000 tons annually.

Achuyta added that beyond feedstock and capacity, investors in battery recycling ventures look for a strategy to produce cathode active materials in the future, as that is where the real financial gain lies. The cathode is the part of a lithium-ion battery that stores and releases energy and is typically made from metal oxides such as lithium cobalt oxide or lithium manganese oxide. Therefore, battery recycling startups should aim to transition from merely recycling batteries to refining materials for remanufacturing cathode components.

Currently, many battery recycling companies export materials to China and other parts of Asia to develop active cathode materials, which are then sent back to domestic automakers and battery companies. This practice contradicts circular economic principles.

Schwich stated that Cylib plans to produce cathode active materials in the future, but this goal will take a backseat until the new facility is operational.

“Our strongest contribution to the market lies in producing highly pure and green raw materials to a tech grade or battery grade,” Schwich said. “However, these materials need additional processing steps before they can be used to build new cells, and this is something we are already working on with our partners.”

Rebecca Bellan
Rebecca Bellan
Rebecca covers transportation. She’s interested in all things micromobility, EVs, AVs, smart cities, AI, sustainability and more. Previously, she covered social media for Forbes.com, and her work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, i-D (Vice) and more. Rebecca studied journalism and history at Boston University.

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