How Nowos is Turning Battery Recycling into a Thriving Business During the Corona Pandemic

Thinking up solutions for complicated puzzles, that’s what he likes to do most. And if possible, two solutions right away, so that you always have a plan B when the first plan doesn’t work. Jan Bartels learned the latter during his studies in Aerospace Engineering in Delft, but it regularly came in handy during his career in the battery industry.

Challenging times

He started his career in the early 1990s at Stibat (Battery Foundation) with the assignment to realize the collection and recycling of batteries without a deposit system. “Battery recycling techniques were not available at the time, so those were challenging times.”
After 20 years in the consumer battery industry, Bartels was ready for a new challenge. “It just happened to be the period in which the lithium-ion battery came into the picture as a new energy supplier, and it appealed to me to carry out a similar exercise for that.”

Do something good

Bartels came into contact with Prince Doornekamp via LinkedIn, who had a lot of experience in designing and building lithium batteries from his previous company and was also looking for a new mission. “Like me, he wanted to do something new, but do something good. After one conversation, we came to the conclusion that together we could mean something for the circularity of lithium-ion batteries and the company was Nowos born.”


Full of good courage and promising plans, the gentlemen started in 2020. But they logically had not factored in the corona pandemic that broke out shortly afterwards. “Everything came to a standstill and all our potential customers and partners said: nice and nice that you recycle, but that costs money and we don’t want to spend that now. Can’t you go and fix it instead?”

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Repair instead of recycle

Bartels and Doornekamp hadn’t thought of reusing batteries by repairing instead of recycling them. But this turned out to be the egg of Columbus at the time. “It was the peak of the corona time, so delivery services were working overtime with their electric bicycles and scooters, so that meant a lot of maintenance on batteries.”
In addition, many people with a technical background from, for example, the entertainment industry were unemployed and they wanted to work for Nowos. In addition, Chinese battery manufacturers were no longer able to provide service in Europe due to the pandemic, so they were looking for a European partner. In short, everything came together perfectly: “Corona has given us the wind at our back instead of working against it.”

Obstacles due to legislation

Repairing turns out to be a golden opportunity: they can repair eighty to ninety percent of the batteries that Nowos is offered. Otherwise, they would have been taken straight to recycling. Nevertheless, Bartels runs into obstacles. “That is mainly in legislation. Because if a consumer returns the battery of his or her electric bicycle to his dealer because it no longer works, this battery is immediately regarded as waste. And if something is waste, you are not allowed to do anything with it without a specific permit.”
But even though this kind of bureaucracy sometimes leads to frustration, it doesn’t stand in Bartels’ way. “We deliberately only work B2B because the right parts are always available with the help of the manufacturers and the battery continues to comply with its safety certificate.
Everything is becoming electric these days, so there is still a huge palette of market segments in which we can get to work.”

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World of difference

Bartels and his partner were able to finance the start of Nowos with their own resources, but when they grew exponentially soon after, they needed financing. “We then spoke to various banks, but noticed that there was little interest and confidence in startups. They all want to see annual and profit figures, but of course you don’t have those yet as a startup.” Fortunately, the conversation at Rabobank went differently: “Here we immediately received so much confidence and support, it really made a world of difference.”

New insurance product

In addition to financial matters, Nowos is now also in talks with Rabobank about a possible new insurance product. “It has now been arranged in such a way that only brand new batteries can be insured. Repaired batteries, even with a valid safety certificate, are not something the insurance industry likes, which means that we pay a ten times higher insurance premium.”
Together with Rabobank, Nowos is now looking into whether a new insurance product can be realized that insures these not new, but safe batteries. “So Rabobank is definitely more than just a lender to us.”

Making money with ‘waste’

Finally, Bartels tip for other entrepreneurs is not to see something as waste too quickly. “Look at your product with different eyes: what else can you do with it by reusing it? There is still a lot to be gained in this area in many industries. And not only for the environment, but also economically. There is real money to be made.”

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Rabobank is a cooperative bank that believes in the power of together. This means that, in addition to their financial resources, they also like to use their knowledge and network to help entrepreneurs. Go to the website to see what Rabobank can do for your company.

2023-06-05 08:47:35
#Corona #unexpectedly #wind

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