Luxembourg and Germany – The rapid growth of electric vehicles (EVs) in Europe is driving significant progress in sustainable mobility. By 2035, an estimated 130 million EVs are anticipated to traverse the continent’s streets, constituting nearly half of all vehicles in the region. However, this transition also presents a formidable challenge: the mounting numbers of end-of-life batteries. Unless managed effectively, these batteries could evolve into a substantial environmental issue.
Stepping up to address this challenge is Circu Li-ion, a forward-thinking battery upcycling startup. Recently, the company secured €8.5 million in seed funding to establish a fully circular battery value chain tailored to Europe’s burgeoning EV market.
Founded in 2021 and headquartered in Luxembourg and Germany, Circu Li-ion has devised an automated upcycling solution aimed at ensuring the sustainable recycling of lithium-ion cells for large-scale reuse. The heart of their approach lies in their in-house development of both hardware and software, offering a Machine-as-a-Service product. This innovative service utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize battery discharging, dismantling, disassembly, and health diagnostics, thereby reducing manual labor and curbing the environmental footprint. Circu Li-ion claims that their upcycling solution can cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 48% compared to traditional recycling methods.
The company has already formed collaborations with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), micromobility service providers, power tool manufacturers, and European recycling firms. Their overarching objective is to upcycle an impressive three billion batteries by 2035.
With the newly secured funding, Circu Li-ion is poised to expand the reach of its Machine-as-a-Service solution into additional European markets. They will also provide Disassembly-as-a-Service, allowing their customers to upcycle batteries at their facility in Karlsruhe, Germany. Concurrently, the company is committed to enhancing battery sorting methods via AI and exploring innovative avenues for direct recycling.
Furthermore, Circu Li-ion will leverage AI and data to establish the world’s most extensive battery recycling data repository. This will enable data-driven decision-making and support a comprehensive circular battery supply chain.
The additional capital will be instrumental in fortifying existing partnerships and forging new ones within the industry. The company also plans to expand its primary production facility in Karlsruhe while doubling its workforce, which currently comprises 34 employees.
Xavier Kohll, co-founder and CTO at Circu Li-ion, emphasized the importance of adaptability in the swiftly evolving battery market. He stated, “It’s more than creating relevancy — it’s about pioneering flexible solutions that carve out new possibilities for cleaner battery recycling.”
The funding round encompasses €4.5 million in equity investments, spearheaded by social venture capital firm BonVenture and supported by a consortium of industry players and Circu Li-ion’s own management team. An additional €4 million in grants was obtained from the European Innovation Council Accelerator (EICA) and a coalition of recyclers and OEMs.
Nikolaj Klebert, Investment Manager at BonVenture, commended Circu Li-ion for their innovative approach, noting that it eliminates the destruction of value and unlocks previously untapped potential, thereby promoting a high level of sustainability that contributes to the transformation of various industries.
Circu Li-ion’s services are well-timed, coinciding with the European Union’s new battery regulation, which seeks to establish a circular economy and mandates minimum levels of recycled elements in EV batteries. Specifically, these standards require 16% recycling for cobalt, 85% for lead, and 6% for lithium and nickel.
Teresa Ribera, the Spanish Minister for the Ecological Transition, stressed the significance of batteries in the decarbonization process and the EU’s shift toward emissions-free modes of transportation. She emphasized the importance of reusing valuable resources from end-of-life batteries, reducing dependence on third-party sources.