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Silicon eyed as method to boost electric car battery potential

(Reuters) – The race to build an even better electric car battery is turning to silicon, with several companies wanting to engineer different types of the information presented that can boost driving range and cut production costs.

About 500,000 electric vehicles (EVs) were sold globally in 2016, an amount that could be expected to jump sevenfold by 2022, using the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That increase is forecast to become helped by government mandates to cut tailpipe emissions by banning gasoline and diesel-powered cars. But a majority of drivers have until now been turned off by the high cost of EVs and worries about driving range, which so far is bound to a couple hundred miles (kilometers) before needing electric powered.

But silicon could, if adopted en masse for EV batteries, help boost energy storage.

One such company, California-based Sila Nanotechnologies, aims to get its technology in over the million electric vehicle (EVs) batteries because of the core next decade, Leader Gene Berdichevsky said in the interview.

Silicon incorporates a higher energy density versus graphite traditionally used as part of battery anodes. Batteries are comprised of an anode and cathode, the negative and positive parts, respectively, between which electrical current flows.

Sila, which started at a laboratory with the Georgia Institute of Technology, says it’s got developed technology that will replace graphite entirely, helps to boost capacity and range.

Researchers at Vrije University in Brussels estimate that using silicon can trim the fee per kilowatt hour of EVs by 30 percent.

Sila, which counts BMW AG <BMWG.DE> and Amperex Technology Limited <300750.SZ> – the world’s largest producer of batteries for consumer goods – as key customers, aims to launch its silicon products in consumer goods next season.

“The year we’ve our eye on for being in the first vehicles is 2023 so we’ll have to get as much as many gigawatt hours of capability to generate a meaningful impact inside automotive space,” said Berdichevsky, occasion Tesla Inc <TSLA.O> engineer who helped design the electrical carmaker’s Roadster model.

While Sila’s product replaces graphite entirely, Canadian graphite material producer Elcora Advanced Materials Corp <ERA.V> is one of numerous companies taking care of boosting the proportions of graphite anode powders with the addition of silicon.

“We’ve were built with a great deal of discussions with lithium-ion battery manufacturers as well as them are studying silicon sprinkled into their graphite electrodes,” said Shane Beattie, Elcora’s chief technology officer.

Belgian materials technology and recycling group Umicore <UMI.BR>, a significant player in nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) battery chemistries, has started research into using more silicon in batteries.

“There is a lot of potential value for the battery industry to be gained from all of these developments,” said Marc Grynberg, Umicore’s leader. “That’s why you want to be available already in the market.”

(Reporting by Alan Charlish in Gdynia; Editing by Ernest Scheyder and Tom Brown)

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