Former Tesla engineer Gene Berdichevsky wants to change the
electric vehiclebattery game with his new company, Sila. And he plans to do it from Moses Lake, Washington.
When its Moses Lake plant opens in 2024, it will help Sila toward its goals to increase
battery range, lower the cost of production, and severe the industry’s reliance on China for materials.
What the deal with Sila’s silicon batteries?
Right now, most EV batteries are made out of a combination of precious metals. To understand more fully, you have to know a bit about battery chemistry—bare with us.
Every lithium-ion battery has three parts: electrolytes, a cathode, and an anode. Electrolytes generally consist of lithium salts. Depending on the manufacturer, cathodes are made of cobalt, aluminum, nickel, and/or manganese. Anodes are made of graphite.
Most of the world’s graphite comes from China. So to loosen China’s grip on the industry, Berdichevsky told
Reutershe plans to develop silicon-based anodes instead.
Silicon is much cheaper to produce and procure than graphite, making it easier for Sila to produce batteries for less money, savings Berdichevsky says will make electric vehicle cheaper.
The EV battery plant headed to Moses Lake, Washington
Moses Lake, Washington is not a big city. Located 104 miles west of Spokane, it’s home to less than 26,000. But in the last decade or so, the former farming town has become a hotbed for manufacturers and tech companies.
The trend started in 2010, when
BMWand its partner SGL Group established a carbon-fibre production plant in the city. Mitsubishi, Boeing, Dell, and International Paper also have manufacturing facilities in the city.
When Sila’s Moses Lake factory is fully operational, Berdichevsky says it will employ hundreds of people and supply enough power for 100,000 vehicles every year. Its silicon anodes the will be able to store 20% more energy than the graphite anodes in other EV batteries.
Are EV makers on board with Sila’s silicon anodes?
Sila and its silicon anodes have yet to hit the big time, but interest is slowly growing. Daimler AG—the parent company to Mercedes-Benz and Smart—has a stake in Sila, and BMW has also jumped on board.
Elon Muskalso expressed interest in silicon anodes in 2020. But like most components in Tesla’s cars, the company will likely try to produce the graphite-less battery part themselves, if they move forward with the idea at all.
The move could be a much-needed reprieve in the ever-increasing cost of EV production and ownership. Commodity costs, supply chain issues, and
car insurancerates have kept the sticker prices for EVs out of reach for many consumers.
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