Mercedes-Benz intends to use a high-efficiency battery anode in a new electric SUV that will be supplied by Sila, an upstart battery materials company led by an early Tesla engineer that says its next-generation technology boosts energy density and, eventually, can lower the cost of lithium-ion packs.
The luxury car company, which initially invested in Sila in 2019, plans to be the first automotive customer for Sila’s material, which will go into battery-powered Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUVs due by about 2025. The new silicon-based anode offers up to a 40% improvement in energy density and improve driving range per charge, Mercedes said. The companies didn’t provide financial details of the supply agreement.
“Sila has come a long way since we established our strategic partnership in 2019,” Markus Schäfer, Mercedes-Benz’schief technology officer, said in a statement. “Delivering such a high energy density is a true game-changer and allows us to think in completely new directions when developing future electric cars.”
The news comes after Alameda, California-based Sila this month said it’s building a plant in Moses Lake, Washington, to manufacture its battery anodes. The factory will produce enough anode materials for batteries for up to half a million electric vehicles annually in its first phase. Over time the plant, which is to begin operations in 2024, may scale up to produce enough of its material for batteries in millions of EVs.
Anodes are one of the four main elements of a battery, along with the cathode, separator material and electrolyte. The active material it’s coated with, typically graphite, lets electric current flow through the external circuit and also allows absorption of lithium ions from the cathode.
“We’re focused on delivering materials that are cost-efficient and capable of delivering on the promise of electric vehicles, working to ensure longer-range energy, improved charge times, and lowering battery cost per kWh,” said Sila cofounder and CEO Gene Berdichevsky.
Berdichevsky was Tesla’s seventh employee, hired in 2004 as principal battery engineer for the Roadster, the company’s first attempt at an electric car. By the time it came out, he was more interested in finding new ways to make the lithium-ion batteries he was working with a lot cheaper and more efficient. He cofounded Sila in 2011 and has raised $925 million over the past decade, including about $600 million in early 2021, to develop its silicon-based technology and fund the first phase of the Washington plant.