Incorporating silicon into battery anodes has the potential to drastically improve charge and discharge performance in everything from phones to cars. In fact, the technology has been one of those "just over the horizon" innovations that we've reported on for over a decade. Now, the wait is nearly over, and Porsche is gearing up for this change with a massive new investment.
Porsche on Wednesday announced a $100 million investment in Group14 Technologies, a company working to manufacture silicon battery anodes. This is part of a larger Series C funding round, of which Porsche is the lead investor, totaling $400 million overall.
Cellforce Group, a joint venture in which Porsche is a major partner, seeks to use Group14's silicon-anode technology and produce high-performance battery cells for electric vehicles. Cellforce Group operates a facility in Tübingen, Germany. With production slated to begin in 2024, it'll start producing cells in small batches, enough for approximately 1,000 vehicles per year. Motorsports and other high-performance applications are Porsche's first targets to take advantage of Group14's tech. But silicon anodes have the potential to improve every EV.
Batteries generate electricity from chemical reactions that produce electrons, which flow from one electrode to another. One of those electrodes is called an anode, and modern ones are typically made from graphite. Replacing that with silicon can vastly improve power density and reduce internal resistance. Smaller batteries with the same capacity will cut down on weight and boost range. Lower internal resistance means less time spent charging as well as improved recuperation from regenerative braking.
"The characteristic properties of the new cell chemistry -- fast charging, high performance and low weight -- pay dividends directly into the Porsche brand core," said Michael Steiner, Porsche's board member overseeing research and development, in a statement. "They are virtually in line with the development goals that we are writing in the specifications for our prospective electric sports cars."
Porsche may be among the first to bring silicon-anode batteries to vehicles, but others are working toward the same goals. An ex-Tesla engineer co-founded Sila, a company building a US factory that will produce silicon anodes for EV batteries. Tesla itself is also working on delivering new battery chemistries, such as lithium-iron-phosphate, which reduces reliance on rare-earth minerals like cobalt.