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Daimler-backed EV Battery Developer Sila Nanotechnologies Raises $590 Million for its Next-Gen Batteries

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【Summary】Sila Nanotechnologies (“Sila Nano”), a California-based next-generation battery materials company, announced that it raised $590 million Series F funding at a $3.3 billion post-money valuation. The company is working to replace conventional graphite electrodes in a lithium ion battery with its proprietary silicon-based composite material that enables 20% higher energy density compared to traditional lithium ion batteries.

Eric Walz    Jan 26, 2021 12:10 PM PT
Daimler-backed EV Battery Developer Sila Nanotechnologies Raises $590 Million for its Next-Gen Batteries

Sila Nanotechnologies ("Sila Nano"), a California-based next-generation battery materials company, announced that it raised $590 million Series F funding at a $3.3 billion post-money valuation. 

Sila Nano was founded in 2011 by Silicon Valley battery engineers and a Georgia Tech Professor of Materials Science. The company is headquartered in Alameda, California. 

New York-based investment management company Coatue led the round with significant participation by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price. Sina Nano's existing investors 8VC, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Sutter Hill Ventures also participated in the round.

California-based Sila Nano is working to replace a lithium ion battery's conventional graphite electrodes with its proprietary silicon-based composite material that enables higher energy density compared to traditional lithium ion batteries.  

The latest funding comes as the company's first batteries will ship in consumer devices. The company also plans to scale up production to address the growing demand from smartphone and automotive customers.

Sila Nano said it will use the funds to begin development of a new North American 100 GWh plant to produce its silicon-based anode material for smartphone and automotive customers. 

"It took eight years and 35,000 iterations to create a new battery chemistry, but that was just step one," said Gene Berdichevsky, co-founder and CEO, Sila Nano. "For any new technology to make an impact in the real-world, it has to scale, which will cost billions of dollars. We know from our experience building our production lines in Alameda that investing in our next plant today will keep us on track to be powering cars and hundreds of millions of consumer devices by 2025."

Silicon-based Anode Materials for EV Batteries

Improvements to traditional lithium-ion battery chemistry that use graphite anodes or lithium metal oxide cathodes are reaching their theoretical limits, according to Sila Nano, so the company's focus is on the development of silicon-based anode battery chemistries. The company's "silicon-based nanoparticles" form a high capacity anode material for lithium-ion batteries. 

Sila Nano's material is designed as a "drop-in" replacement for graphite in existing lithium-ion factories, the company said. The silicon-based anode coatings can be applied using the current lithium ion battery production process, making it possible to scale the technology using existing manufacturing lines.

The process eliminates the use of graphite while delivering higher energy density at the cellular-level with reduced swelling or expansion during charging. Traditional anode materials in EV batteries have a tendency to swell during charging, which can eventually cause damage to the battery and shorten its service life.

However Sila Nano's silicon-based anode materials are porous enough to accommodate this expansion, thereby preventing damage. 

The silicon anode technology can lead to the development of longer-lasting and more energy-dense batteries for electric vehicles. Silo Nano says that its materials can improve the energy density of today's batteries by 20% and as much as 50% in the future.

The use of silicon nanotechnology also improves "solid-electrolyte-interphase" (SEI) & cycle life. SEI is a process in which a microscopic coating forms on the electrode surfaces inside the battery from the decomposition of the electrolytes, which are created from repeated cycles of recharging and discharging. 

Although SEI is considered a part of a new battery's "break-in process," which helps batteries maintain their charge, its formation is actually considered a defect of modern batteries, contributing to electrode surface instability, which leads to battery degradation over time.

The company, which currently has partnerships with automaker Daimler, aims to start battery production at the new plant in 2024 and aims to have its batteries powering electric vehicles by 2025. 

In 2019, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler announced it acquired a minority equity stake in Sila Nano as part of its research and development of advanced batteries for the automaker's future electric vehicles.

Also in 2019, Sila Nano announced its hired Kurt Kelty, who served as Senior Director of Battery Technology at Tesla for over a decade. Kelty currently serves as Sila Nano's VP of Automotive. Kelty was instrumental in setting up Tesla's joint venture battery factory with Panasonic.

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