Sweden’s Cling Systems is a B2B collection and trading platform that’s targeting the end of life ecosystem for li-ion batteries. It’s developing a global solution that enables circular value chains of li-ion batteries, and it’s aiming to challenge the material extraction industry by consolidating and giving access to critical raw materials.
If that isn’t enough, Cling is also aiming to develop the first online mine. More on that later in this article.
William Bergh, Cling’s Founder and CEO, has been talking to Auto Futures.
The start-up has just raised $2.3 million in funds that will be used to accelerate the development of the company’s market platform.
“From 2015-2020 I studied Engineering at Lund University in Sweden and together with five friends, founded Lund Formula Student’s very first electric formula racing team and developed the first electric driveline. That provided a taste of the challenges of developing and running a project focused on mobility,” says Bergh.
Towards the end of his studies, Bergh did a Masters Thesis at Northvolt, the Swedish battery developer and manufacturer, mapping the logistics of EV batteries and lithium-ion battery recycling.
“My experience at Northvolt crystallized my perceptions of the battery ecosystem and the loop that Cling could close,” he adds.
The EV battery ecosystem is currently very fragmented. That’s where Cling comes in. Its market platform connects the sellers, comprising OEMs and fleet owners, dismantlers and workshops, and the buyers, comprising the recyclers and repurposers.
“Cling will then be responsible for trading, tracing, and transport of the batteries. Market consolidation is a complicated business anyway, but, with batteries, that complexity increases many times over given all the environmental hazards and forthcoming regulation,” explains Bergh.
“OEMs carry a producer responsibility that demands certain responsibility regarding collection and compliant treatment. The responsibility will drastically increase in scope in the new European battery regulation. Cling will provide OEMs with a one point of contact for collection and get increased data on collection and recycling rates. Any sustainability reports they produce will also be supplemented by the data we provide. As the network effects of the platform increase, we’ll obviously consider and implement new applications and try to be as nimble as possible.”
Keeping a Collaborative Core
With sales of electric vehicles rapidly growing, Cling believes that the waste problem of end of life EV batteries is also a great commercial opportunity.
“We are taking a long-term view on the creation of the platform and ensuring scalability from the start. As you would expect with the construction of any marketplace, a critical mass of buyers and sellers is needed, and we spend a great deal of our time building up trust and relations with other players in the market,” explains Bergh.
“The industry is highly collaborative and, in some ways, still very close-knit despite the capital flowing in – we aim to keep that collaborative ethos at the core of how we do business. Still, the collection ecosystem of scrap vehicles and electronics are nationalised and rather analogue. Cling aims to leverage the inherent powers of digital market platform,” he adds.
In late 2021, Cling announced it had secured $2.3 million in seed funding from a number of global investors, led by Trucks VC and First Venture. Bergh says the capital will be used to help develop the platform and to hire the right talent. “People who are fascinated by the complexity of the challenge we face and are genuinely motivated to revolutionize the recycling industry and protect the environment.”
“In our seed announcement we said the marketplace is aimed at car assemblers in the Nordic region and remanufacturers across Europe. Interest has now since expanded from a wide range of players outside those regions, including in North America and Asia, which is fantastic. That said, the European market is having regulations coming in which we are paying close attention to and will hopefully increase the imperative to recycle and reuse,” adds Bergh.
“My sincere hope is that the industry moves forward rationally…”
Looking to the future, Cling has plans to develop an online mine. Bergh says recycling processes will soon be competing with mining and the refining of raw materials for battery production.
“Waste is the new ore in a circular economy. By digitising waste and making its raw material content sourceable to recyclers and other ecosystem players, Cling develops the world’s first online mine,” he explains.
Finally, we asked Bergh what urban mobility will look like by the start of the next decade.
“Tough question! We are creating the world’s online mine so I would love to see that dream realised by 2030 and for waste to be considered an accessible and valuable resource. I think there are some really interesting things happening with vehicle to grid technology, and the mix of energy that will be used by different countries for their national grids. The speed of deployment in the sector means that any predictions beyond the short term are somewhat redundant – what a fascinating status quo to work in.”
“My sincere hope is that the industry moves forward rationally and makes sure that the right propulsion and energy storage systems is used in the right application. Hydrogen, batteries, super capacitors and other novel technologies all have benefits. There is no ‘one tech fits all’,” concludes Bergh.