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Starting up batteries gives rise to millions in the battle to crush Tesla



"It's an emerging technology in the very early stages of commercialization," said Dean Frankel, Solid Power's Business Development Manager. "It just takes time from an upscale point of view."

While some start-ups are working to improve and strengthen the solid state battery, others like Sila Nanotechnologies hope to benefit from current lithium-ion production processes to quickly develop batteries. Instead of creating a solid state battery, Sila only replaces the graphitic acid with one consisting of silicon, a material that absorbs lithium ions about four times faster than graphite.

In addition, most lithium ion batteries with graphite anodes have a charge rate or C rate of less than 1 percent. Start-ups develop new cells with silicon anodes saying that the C speeds of their batteries are much better, a key differential to enable a future electric vehicle, since most do not want to wait more than an hour for a car to charge when gas pumping takes just minutes.

"We can keep a charge rate 10 times as fast as a conventional graphite cell," says Robert A. Rango, CEO of Enevate.

Irvine, a California-based company that creates a next-generation lithium ion battery with silicon anodes, is armed with $ 111 million in funding, including an investment made last year by South Korea's battery company LG Chem. Rango said Enevate, whose batteries have been working for 10 years, is about a year and a half away from the first commercial use of its technology, probably in electric bikes and scooters.

Silicon anode batteries still have a potential drawback: The silicone material swells which means that each charge causes the battery to deteriorate. It's a problem both Berdichevsky and Rango said their respective companies have solved.

"Silicone is expanding, and it has been one of the challenges in the industry," Rango said. "In our cells we have been able to accommodate the expansion. Our cells have specifications that meet the requirements of electric vehicles." These requirements? That a battery can charge up to 80 percent after it has been charged and released 1000 times.

The long development timeline of these start-ups is a sign of how difficult it is to print battery technology. And while improvements in electric vehicles are indeed one of the most important consequences of a better battery, successors to the current lithium-ion battery are likely to be found in much smaller objects.

"You are talking about a generation's technical shift that must happen," said Berdichevsky. "In 150 years of batteries, four commercially relevant chemicals have been on the market. And each time you go to these new chemicals, they get harder."


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