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US engineer to make silicon batteries for e-cars to cut reliance on China’s graphite

US engineer to make silicon batteries for e-cars to cut reliance on China’s graphite

A battery startup founded by a former Tesla engineer announced plans on Tuesday for mass production of next-generation materials in the US to cut costs, increase driving ranges of electric cars and reduce the industry's dependence on China.

Sila Nanotechnologies will invest in a new plant in Washington state due to open in 2024, Sila CEO Gene Berdichevsky told Reuters.

Berdichevsky said Sila would use the new plant to make silicon-based anode materials that can store 20% more energy than anodes that use graphite, 70% of which comes from China.

He pointed out that in recent years the price of electric car batteries had plateaued rather than coming down, so new materials could help lower the cost to consumers.

Auto giant Daimler AG has a minority equity stake in unlisted Sila and the company is also backed by BMW. Sila raised an additional $590 million last year and has a valuation of around $3.3 billion. 

Unlike graphite, silicon is not on the U.S. critical minerals as the Biden administration is keen to reduce reliance on China in the battery supply chain. 

He said its new facility aims to deliver annual silicon-based anode production sufficient to power 10 gigawatt hours of batteries in 100,000 electric vehicles, with a goal to increase the capacity to power 2 million electric vehicles a year, according to the Reuters report.

Sila runs a test production facility at Alameda in California that can produce battery materials for about 1,000 cars a year which it plans to scale up.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk had also announced a plan to use silicon-based anode in its new batteries at its Battery Day event in 2020.