Colruyt family invests in home-battery production
The Colruyt family, the family that gave its name to one of the biggest retailers in Belgium, has invested in VoltStorage. This German start-up produces big batteries for home-storage of locally produced electricity (solar panels, wind…)
Via their private holding Korys, the family is the biggest investor of a group that injects €6 million into VoltStorage. How significant the Korys share is in the total investment is not communicated, but it is “enough to have a seat in the Board”.
With the significant increase of individuals producing their own electricity, the need for storing energy at home has also grown. “On average, homes with solar panels use 30% of their energy directly,” says Loïc de Schaetzen, investment director at Korys.
“The rest is injected into the energy network. When they are able to store the energy themselves, they can use up to 80% of their self-produced electricity.” The market of companies that produce these home-batteries has become extremely competitive lately, but VoltStorage claims to have an advantage.
“The batteries of VoltStorage are more sustainable and eco-friendly,” says de Schaetzen. “Most other batteries use lithium and cobalt, like in cars, we use vanadium. You can find it everywhere in the world, and it doesn’t lose its storage capacity. Furthermore, vanadium is recyclable and not inflammable.”
The biggest drawback of vanadium is that it is much heavier. “Our storage batteries have the size of a refrigerator and weigh 400 kg. In a home, this is not a big handicap.” Another handicap until now was the intensive need for maintenance of vanadium batteries. “We have been able to cure that. Our batteries can last ten years before maintenance is needed.”
Vanadium batteries are already commonly used in the industry. VoltStorage wants to launch them for individual houses and, in the future, for apartment blocks and offices. “For that, we need a bigger battery, that’s why VoltStorage went to look for additional investors.”
Today, VoltStorage only sells batteries in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. There are no plans yet to go to other countries. “The Belgian market and legislation are not yet ready for it,” explains de Schaetzen. “And at this moment, we’re very busy in the countries where we do sell. Sales double every year.”
At this moment, VoltStorage hasn’t reached breakeven yet. “We plan to reach this within two years.” Earlier investors are the American fund SOSV, the Swiss energy-company Energie360°, and the German entrepreneur Matthias Willenbacher. The new ones are Korys, Bayern Kapital, and the European Institute for Innovation and Technology.
The Korys holding behind the Colruyt family has already invested in green-energy companies. It already bought shares in companies like Parkwind, exploiting windmills to produce energy in a sustainable way.
Retailer Colruyt and Korys have also created a new joint venture, Virya Energy, to centralize and streamline their energy investments. But at the moment, VoltStorage will not be integrated into this collaboration.