Mercedes-Backed Farasis Says Silicon Boosts Battery Energy 25%
(Bloomberg) -- Farasis Energy, the Chinese battery manufacturer backed by Mercedes-Benz, said a lithium-silicon battery it’s developing with Group14 Technologies Inc. passed a key performance test, paving the way for its commercialization in electric vehicles.
Group14, which makes battery materials, is part of a crowded field of companies trying to land on new battery chemistries that could speed EV adoption by providing automakers with safer, cheaper alternatives or improvements to lithium-ion batteries.
The cell that Farasis and Group14 have developed was found to have 25% more energy density than a typical lithium-ion battery in cars today, according to Group14, meaning it can go farther on a single charge without increasing cost. It also retained 80% of its storage capacity after being charged and discharged 1,500 times, matching the performance of current lithium-ion batteries, said Rick Luebbe, chief executive officer of Group14. The results were also verified by the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium.
“People talk about what might be available in 2026 or 2027,” Luebbe said. “This is a today technology that Farasis has validated works right now.”
Farasis confirmed the battery that contains Group14’s materials works in an EV-sized cell and meets automotive specifications.
“We’ll see these in cells in electric vehicles by 2023,” Luebbe said. “But we expect to be in the majority of EV battery cells by 2025.”
Farasis, whose parent is based in Ganzhou, China, declined to comment on when it plans to offer the battery to customers. “With continued progress this technology could be successful in future generations of vehicles,” the company said in a statement.
Batteries have three major components: two electrodes -- an anode and a cathode -- and an electrolyte that helps shuttle the charge between them. The materials used to make them determine how much energy batteries store and at what cost.
The cell developed by Farasis and Group14 has a silicon-carbon anode instead of the graphite in most EV batteries today. It is one of several breakthroughs that companies are targeting to improve range and lower costs. Companies like QuantumScape Corp. are taking a different path by pursuing solid-state lithium-metal batteries, which use solid materials instead of flammable liquids to enable charging and discharging.
“There’s a bit of a horse race going on between these two” technologies, said Venkat Srinivasan, director of the battery center at the U.S. government-backed Argonne National Laboratory. “It comes down to who is going to execute, create those large numbers of batteries, capture the market, and demonstrate the battery they’re making can satisfy all the metrics for the application.”
Read more: Next-Generation Battery Pioneer Says Breakthroughs Are Coming
A common stumbling block with silicon anodes is that charging makes the silicon swell, reducing battery life. Group14 says that by using nanoengineering -- manipulating molecules -- it can prevent that from happening.
Group14 counts SK Materials Co. and Chinese battery maker Amperex Technology Ltd. as investors. It’s in the process of raising money in a private funding round to fuel its expansion, Luebbe said.
Group14 is building a battery materials plant in South Korea through a joint venture with SK. It also has a materials plant near its headquarters in Woodinville, Washington, and is building a second factory there that will begin operation in early 2023 to expand production of its silicon-carbon composites. It is planning a third U.S. plant, as well as one in Europe.
Farasis counts Mercedes, Volvo Car AB and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. as customers. Mercedes parent Daimler AG has invested and its development chief, Markus Schaefer, said last month that the German automaker is considering expanding the relationship.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.