Porsche joins $400 million bet on lithium-silicon batteries for future electric vehicles

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Porsche read the room.

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With his first electric car excellence in sales The German automaker, a typical 911 sports car, has increased its bet on electric vehicles in response, partly through a big investment in lithium-silicon battery developer Group14 Technologies.

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Porsche injected $100 million into Group14 as part of a larger $400 million Series C funding round. Other investors who have contributed include Canadian pension fund OMERS, Decarbonization Partners, private equity firm Riverstone, Vsquared Ventures and Moore Strategic Ventures.

Group14’s key technology is silicon-carbon powder, which can replace or reinforce graphite anodes. Graphite is used in most modern lithium ion batteries and although it is a reasonable anode as it is stable and can store a reasonable amount of energy.

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However, as automakers push for higher energy densities, graphite is pushing its limits. Silicon is an attractive alternative as it is able to hold much more lithium – theoretically up to ten times more. But this same advantage is also silicon’s Achilles’ heel. Because silicon absorbs so much lithium, expansion and contraction at the molecular level can destroy the structure of the anode, causing it to fail prematurely.

Group14 is one of many startups looking to develop silicon-based anodes that can be repeatedly charged and discharged without breaking. To do this, the company fills the porous carbon frame with silicon-containing gas. The end result is a carbon compound flavored with nanosized silicon particles. These particles serve to trap lithium ions while the carbon cage serves as a stable structure so the anode does not decompose during use.

Group14 says its carbon-silicon material can also be blended with graphite anodes, and that it can be added to an existing battery production line with minor modifications.

The startup claims its SCC55 material can store 50 percent more energy than traditional graphite anodes. It currently has one battery material manufacturing plant and two more are in development: one joint venture with SK Group to be launched later this year, and another to start production in 2023. It appears that Group14 is targeting the production of battery packs for Porsche. in 2024.

For a carmaker like Porsche, which has built its reputation on lightweight, high-performance sports cars, the prospect of a smaller, more powerful battery should be attractive.

The development of battery technology is key to decarbonizing the automotive industry, which accounts for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, according to Greenpeace. However, this potentially lucrative deal does little to erase the sordid track record of some Group14 investors, some of whom are vocal supporters of fossil fuels.

For example, Decarbonization Partners is a joint venture between BlackRock and Temasek. The pair have backed some intriguing sustainability-focused firms, such as a mushroom skin startup. MycoWorksyet BlackRock also recently pledged to “continue to invest in and support fossil fuel companies.” The $97.3 billion investment giant tends to be off topic. both sides of the mouth. OMERS portfolio also includes several crude oil and gas operations, although the pension fund has pledged to achieve zero emissions in its investments by the distant 2050.

For Group14, the new deal represents a big step forward – almost tenfold. Prior to the raise, the Woodinville, Washington-based startup reportedly received a total $41.5 million or so in venture dollars and government subsidies.

Credit: techcrunch.com /

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