ORLEN VC invests in technology designed to facilitate reuse of EV batteries

ORLEN VC, Poland’s largest corporate venture capital fund owned by the ORLEN Group, has invested in a state-of-the-art platform enabling the reuse and later recycling of batteries from millions of electric vehicles placed on the market every year. This innovative solution created by Germany’s Circunomics, in which ORLEN VC has become a major shareholder, will help reduce the carbon footprint of electric vehicles by up to 50%. In less than two years since it was launched, ORLEN VC has built a portfolio of eight equity investments, totalling more than PLN 150m.

“We invest in interesting, forward-looking solutions set to enhance our competitive advantages and drive the growth of the combined ORLEN Group, with a beneficial impact on the environment. Circular economy technologies, especially in areas such as energy and new mobility, have enormous potential. We can see tangible business gains and environmental benefits they can unlock for us. We have invested in yet another tech company that, with our strategic and capital support, will be able to bring its innovative idea into being for greener use of electric vehicles. ORLEN VC’s new investment is fully aligned with the development directions we have adopted and our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality,” says Daniel Obajtek, President of the Management Board and CEO of PKN ORLEN.

Circunomics is one of the leading start-ups in circular economy and battery monitoring solutions. Its founders, Felix Wagner and Jan Born, set themselves the goal of creating an entire closed-loop ecosystem for EV batteries, from their first and second lives all the way to recycling. They developed an innovative platform for monitoring the condition and sales of batteries until they are recycled, that is until rare earth metals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt are recovered for reuse in the manufacture of new batteries. Since its inception, the company has been backed by industry investors, including the Next Mobility Labs venture studio, German recycling company TES, and former executives of the AUDI Group.

“We are delighted to have partnered with ORLEN – a major player in Europe. The ORLEN Group is strongly committed to becoming a carbon-neutral business in the future. Circunomics can significantly contribute to achieving this ambition. With the partnership we have secured a source of new capital, but also a deeper insight into the energy and automotive industries, as well as strategic support,” said Felix Wagner, CEO and co-founder of Circunomics.

In 2023, electric cars already had a 10% share in the passenger car segment. The European EV market is growing fast, having expanded by almost 60% between 2021 and 2022, which makes it the second largest market in the world. About 2.5 million electric vehicles were sold last year alone. In addition, Europe is now a global leader in battery production, with an annual output of 2,000 GWh. The production capacity of Asia, the second largest market, is estimated at 1,400 GWh per year.

By 2030, Europe is expected become the leader in sales of electric vehicles. According to forecasts, the global capacity of second-life batteries will reach 1,000 GWh by 2030, in step with the growing production. The increase will be driven by rising production volumes and demand for batteries, long delivery times for new batteries, growing demand for lithium amid tight supply, and a more prominent role of stationary energy storage facilities.

Circunomics is the sixth start-up in which ORLEN VC has invested. In less than two years of its operation, ORLEN VC has built a portfolio of six technology companies from all around Europe plus two foreign investment funds. Thus, it has joined a group of the largest and most active investment funds in Central and Eastern Europe. ORLEN VC plans to make on average from five to six direct investments per year, focusing on the most promising companies with innovative and ready-to-commercialise technologies, in line with the ORLEN2030 strategy.