For years, scientists have and engineers predicted that lithium-ion batteries would get a boost if they could just add more silicon. In the lab, the prediction held, but only for a short period of time. The material had a downside: it became brittle after repeated charging.
Sila seems to think the problem has been solved. The startup, along with its strategic partner Mercedes-Benz, announced that its silicon anode material is expected to appear in an electric G-Class by 2025. That suggests not only that Sila is confident its technology can meet the high demands of the automaker, but also that it can produce the material in sufficient quantities to give the blocky SUV a decent range.
CEO Gene Berdichevsky, who designed the battery for the Tesla Roadster, founded the company with the goal of replacing graphite anodes with silicon, and it has been perfecting its silicon anode for more than a decade. That persistence seems to be paying off.
Today, almost all lithium ion batteries use graphite because it provides a stable home for lithium ions while charging. But graphite is not very energy-rich, especially when compared to silicon. To hold one lithium ion, graphite must devote six carbon atoms to the task. However, one atom of silicon can hold four lithium ions.