Why Sila’s Next Generation Si-Anode Material Will Help EV Adoption
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Sila is making the next-generation silicon anode material, which it says will help boost electric vehicle sales. It has just been announced that Mercedes Benz will integrate its silicon anode chemistry into the electric G-Class for the first time.
Kurt Kelty, vice president of marketing for Sila, tells Auto Futures how the company plans to improve energy density by using green materials and lower the price of batteries.
Kelty led the battery team at Tesla for more than a decade. Gene Berdichevsky, CEO and co-founder of Sila was Tesla’s seventh employee and worked as a battery manager creating the first batteries. Gleb Yushin, co-founder and CTO, is also a professor of materials science at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“We have a great team, from semiconductor, energy, automotive and materials science with great intellectual property that sets us apart,” Kelty says.
He describes Alameda-based Sila as the largest battery company ever funded – with $925 million in funding and three hundred employees.
“We have been developing the technology for ten years with 50,000 interactions. We are determined and passionate about putting more electric vehicles on the road. We have created a material that allows customers to get a better product. The material allows for better energy density and increased range,” says Kelty.
Most batteries used for electric cars have graphite anodes. One problem with graphite is that 90% comes from China. Graphite’s CO2 emissions and environmental impact are high, says Kelty.
Sila silicon (Si) anodes that can replace graphite increase the energy density of Li-ion cells and can reduce Li-ion battery costs. A single atom of Si can store four atoms of lithium. To store the same four lithium atoms would require twenty-four carbon atoms in graphite anodes.
Another advantage of a silicon anode is that it stores lithium in a much smaller volume. Thinner Si anodes allow for much faster charging. Thinner electrodes allow lithium ions to reach the anode particles much faster and easier.
“We’ve been shipping since September from our research center in Alameda,” says Kelty. He notes that the material works with existing battery manufacturing processes.
Improving the carbon footprint of vehicles
The WHOOP 4.0 fitness tracker is the first product to use Sila materials in its battery.
Sila’s Si-anode material enabled WHOOP 4.0 to have 17% higher energy density, 33% size reduction, 5-day battery life, improved sealed battery, and improved biometric functionality.
The company recently purchased a 600,000 square foot facility in Moses Lake, Wash., on 160 acres to produce its proprietary US-made anode material.
“The plant is providing supply validation for greater production of anode material. We will mass-produce materials for electric vehicle batteries in early 2025,” Kelty says.
Mercedes-Benz and BMW are anchor investors. In a press release, Markus Schäfer, Member of the Management Board of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for development and supply, said: “We are pleased to have Sila as a first-class partner. plan that will help us power our future generation of electric luxury vehicles with their highly innovative anode technology. Delivering such high energy density is a real game-changer and allows us to think in completely new directions when developing future electric cars.
In a white paper, Sila reports, “The increased energy density of Sila’s Sila anode enables EV manufacturers to have more range in the same battery footprint. Sila’s Sila anodes lighten the car body and are compatible with fast charging technology. Higher energy density lowers the cost per kWh. Using less anode material reduces the amount of electrolytes, separators, packaging, and other materials needed to complete the cell, further reducing lithium-ion battery costs.
Sila chose the Moses Lake location because there is cheap green electricity from hydroelectricity, Kelty says.
Kelty explains that there is pressure on electric automakers to show how green their vehicles are, carbon emissions and the integrity of their supply chains. By using Sila’s anode materials, they can improve the carbon footprint of their vehicles.
Sand is a source for the Si-anode material
“The main remedy of our technology is silicon, derived from sand and energy. We work with our suppliers to ensure they meet our ethical standards and seek to source raw materials created with clean energy to reduce our carbon footprint,” Berdichevsky said in a statement to Auto Futures.
Sila’s white papers indicate that its next-generation anode, using its new chemistry and manufacturing process, can increase lithium-ion energy density by up to 40% and power density by up to 100%.
In a white paper, co-authored by Berdichevsky, the company’s vision for cheaper, longer-lasting battery cells from green materials is revealed.
“In the next five to ten years, we’ll see a $50 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cell capable of fast charging, over 10,000 cycles, over a million miles , a 30-year-lifetime battery, and produced with abundant raw materials found around the world and recycled. Demand for such a battery would reach unprecedented levels,” the company explained.