electric mobilityThis Swiss company puts the environmentally friendly package
If the name of Kyburz doesn’t speak to many people, his vehicles are known to everyone as they are used daily to deliver mail. This company has also just launched a visionary recycling system for batteries.
“The past doesn’t interest me, I prefer to see what I can change in the future”, declares Martin Kyburz at the beginning of our interview. As a coach, his eyes are always on the future. On the other hand, he admits weaknesses in terms of business management, although this does not prevent Kyburz from being among the most successful Swiss companies in the field of electromobility.
In the 1980s, Martin Kyburz, a recent electrical engineer, loves his Renault 18 Turbo, which he has driven 250,000 kilometers with. However, something bothers him: his gas mileage. “We have to do better,” he said. Coming from a family of teachers, from an early age he was sensitized to ecology.
cheetah at the beginning
He then got in touch with a small group of solar energy enthusiasts, who gathered regularly for the Tour de Sol, a race of solar-powered vehicles – range, efficiency, speed and awareness of the environment are central concerns. Martin Kyburz is also quickly infected by this “virus”. He will also participate in the race with the first vehicle he designed himself: the Geetah.
The Geetah (cheetah) is fast and can travel 150 kilometers. This machine caused a sensation and allowed him to make his first important contacts. “However, Geetah was too expensive to be mass produced,” explains Martin Kyburz. On the other hand, this makes it possible to find a niche market: means of transport for the elderly. In 1991, he founded the company Kyburz Switzerland SA and started building electric models for people with reduced mobility.
“Selling them gave me my first basic income,” he says. However, he had to make do with a modest standard of living and came close to bankruptcy on several occasions. After all, he invests the money he earns in new projects.
So, in 2002, he was hired by the Swiss Post to design an electric conveyor. However, it took seven years for the first DXP, which is the name of the vehicle, to be delivered… to the Deutsche Post!
In 2010, Swiss Post also joined the project. The success is enormous, since more than 25,000 electric vehicles have been sold since then. It is now impossible to imagine deliveries in Switzerland without these perfectly silent three-wheeled yellow postal vehicles. The company also sells its electric tricycles as far away as Iceland and Australia.
Martin Kyburz could therefore rest on his laurels. But, as we said, his eyes are on the future. “My idea has always been to keep raw materials in circulation as long as possible,” he says. Each Kyburz vehicle has two lives before its battery serves as a powerhouse for a third.
The Green Business Award will be presented on 23 September in Bern as part of the Swiss Sustainability Forum. In addition to Kyburz Switzerland SA, the electricity storage start-up Energie Vault and the food startup Planted are named.
Recycle batteries without wasting energy
Kyburz has just launched its latest innovation: a facility capable of recycling lithium-ion batteries and recovering almost 100% of its raw material – without chemistry or major energy expenditure. “So we’ve come full circle with lithium-ion batteries,” says Martin Kyburz proudly.
Thanks to this idea, Kyburz Switzerland SA is therefore one of the three finalists nominated for the Green Business Award, which will be presented on 23 September. “Prices are good for the image, but they’re not important to me,” ponders Martin Kyburz, laconic. He already prefers to think about the next steps for an ecologically correct future.
A story like a novel
In 2021, Kyburz Switzerland SA celebrated its 30th anniversary. On the occasion of this commemoration, a book in three parts was published, which looks more like a novel worthy of being adapted for the cinema. It describes all the ups and downs of this extraordinary company. You can read excerpts at the Kyburz Jubilee Blog.