Hamburg Metropolitan Region

Customcells - premium battery cells "Made in Germany"

30 January 2023
Efficient energy storage crucial to electrification of economy - Customcells along entire value chain

The Itzehoe-based Customcells, a manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for premium niche applications, raised EUR 60 million in a Series A funding round in December. The lead investors, the Hamburg-based private equity firm Abacon Capital and World Fund, a venture capitalist specializing in climate change technologies, are now on board. Commenting on the investement decision, Daria Saharova, joint founder of World Fund, pointed out: "Customcells has an opportunity to disrupt aviation and to decarbonize the entire industry swiftly.” Energy storage is crucial to the "expansion of renewable energies and for the ongoing decarbonization of the global economy", she added. Customcells will put the fresh capital towards advancing electric flying. Developing efficient energy storage systems is the main prerequisite for the successful electrification of aviation and the economy overall.

Focus on entire value chain

Powerful lithium-ion cells weigh little and are the main technology at present. "Lithium-ion batteries will certainly remain the key storage technology for decades to come," said Torge Thönnessen, CEO of Customcells. "Although there are new approaches such as sodium, magnesium or aluminum batteries, these are next-generation technologies from the day after tomorrow." Founded in  2012 as a spin-off from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (ISIT) in Itzehoe, Customcells develops applications for medical technology, aerospace, maritime and automotive industries and is on a growth path. The focus also lies on the entire value chain of lithium-ion battery cells - from development to certification and series production to recycling. The workforce is expected to grow from 90 to over 160 staff by mid 2023. To this end, a new building is being built on a 10,000 square metre site in the Itzehoe-Nord Technology Park.

Site of Customcells new building in Itzehoe

Joint venture with Porsche AG

"Customcells is one of the leading companies in the development and series production of special lithium-ion battery cells. Over the past ten years, we have completed more than 1,400 development-intense projects for over 600 customers and conceptualized and ramped up four cell factories on their behalf," said Thönnessen, who has been CTO of the Cellforce Group, a Customcells joint venture with Porsche AG, since 2021. "The sports car manufacturer has chosen us as its technology and development partner to drive its journey into e-mobility." To this end, the Cellforce Group will develop high-performance lithium-ion pouch cells for automotive applications in Reutlingen/Kirchentellinsfurt and will research the chemistry of the battery cell, which effects the performance, efficiency and durability of the battery.

New job profile - battery cell specialist

Customcells' research- and high-performance business model requires specialist know-how - and the company is not alone. "Several battery plants are being built in Germany and across Europe at present. The demand for skilled workers is high," Thönnessen pointed out. Yet, the current shortage of skilled workers is not causing a headache. "Customcells is located in the gap between research, development and series production and is active in areas such as sports cars or electric flying. That makes us attractive to university graduates." However, the same does not apply to workers skilled in battery cells. "That job profile doesn't yet exist. For this reason, we are involved in training and are now in talks with a Hamburg-based trainer."

Torge Thönnessen, joint founder of Customcells

Building a sustainable ecosystem

Plans by Northvolt, a Swedish manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, to set up a branch in Heide near Customcells do not daunt Thönnessen. "Northvolt targets the mass market, we target the premium sector. This environment is less about competition and more about building a viable ecosystem together."


Sources and further information

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