To help electric planes take off, German battery company Customcells says it landed about $63 million (€60 million) in Series A funding from Porsche and several climate-tech investors.
World Fund, a one-year-old venture firm that backs European climate startups, led the deal. Abacon Capital and Vsquared Ventures also chipped in.
Customcells develops and recycles high-performance lithium-ion batteries that power products like cars, medical equipment and fossil fuel development (despite its stated decarbonization goals). The company also makes batteries for high-heat environments north of 122 degrees F. For this funding round, Customcells has a specific aim in mind: accelerating its push into “e-aviation” as well as its expansion outside of Germany and into the U.S. and Asia.
There’s no question that air travel is a serious climate change driver. Still, the sector is a long ways from decarbonization. A 2020 paper from researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University, NOAA and Oxford found that aviation represents 3.5% of all human activities that drive climate change, per NOAA. Air travel is almost completely reliant on kerosene, which spews greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide) and poisons folks with lead when it’s burned.
An alternative to this mess could be all-electric aircraft. Small electric planes are already feasible, yet researchers say batteries today are far too heavy to power larger planes on their own. The battery-weight challenge explains why some aviation startups are instead exploring alternative fuels, including hydrogen.
World Fund partner Daria Saharova called decarbonizing air travel “a huge uphill battle,” but argued in a prepared statement that the potential upsides were worth it. The startup’s chief executive, Dirk Abendroth, dubbed aviation the “next great decarbonisation challenge” in a separate statement on the new round.
Customcells has attracted more than just investors. Its current customers include small jet maker Lilium as well as “over half of Germany’s major automotive companies,” a spokesperson for the startup told TechCrunch. They declined to share names, citing NDAs, but we already know Porsche is among them.