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cylib: next generation battery recycling


“I think we need to change our mindset in general. We need to change our habits.”

“We break down the battery into its raw form, so that we can then re-use it again to make new batteries. That way we don’t have to keep mining for new minerals,” explains Lilian Schwich, co-founder and CEO of cylib, a start-up company based spun out of RWTH Aachen University.


As the green transition picks up speed, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) has exploded, with Europe seeing a 19% increase in personal ownership of EVs in 2021 alone. A step in the right direction perhaps, but the problem of battery replacement and recycling is growing in tandem. “Europe needs approximately 420,000 tonnes of EV/mobility battery recycling by 2030,” explains Lilian.


This is where cylib comes in. “As demand for lithium grows and its price rises, recycling is becoming not just a sustainability issue but also an economic one.” In the past, batteries would be thrown into the furnace, burned and then the nickel and cobalt extracted. While that may have been economically viable, it’s environmentally unsustainable. Instead, on the back of 5-6 years of research, cylib proposes a holistic process that involves both mechanical and thermal treatment, with minimal use of chemicals. “Our footprint for recycling material is much lower than mining raw materials, and once we’re done with sorting, discharging, disassembling and recycling the batteries, we get back 90% of the raw materials,” she explains. Cylib's end-to-end process is characterized by the efficient, resource- and climate-friendly recovery of all valuable metals in an electric car battery.


Since spinning out of academic research, the company has departed on a growth trajectory which has seen employee number explode beyond 35. “And we’re expecting 15 more recruits by the end of 2023,” Lilian adds, as the company seeks to match the researchers with industrialisation expertise. From the lab to proof-of-concept, the next step is now industrialisation. Part of this growth and push to industrialise has been financed through an equity investment from the World Fund, a German venture capital firm backed by the EIF under the InvestEU programme. “We’re now working with consultants, architects and other experts planning the industrial plant. We’re aiming to get to market a year earlier than initially planned, by early 2026.”

Location: Aachen, Germany

Financial intermediaries: World Fund

SME: cylib

Sector: batteries

Number of employees: 36

Financing purpose: product development

EIF Financing: InvestEU; DFF; ERP; LfA

Note: Following the recent withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, we are updating the relevant EIF.org pages.


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