To increase the capacity of electric vehicle batteries, automakers are increasingly turning to silicon, a widely used but fragile ingredient that promises to increase capacity by at least 20%.

Sila, Group14, Envoix and Amprius are all trying to commercialize their silicon anode technology, hoping to satisfy consumers’ desire for more electric vehicle range.

Ionobell is a seed-stage startup hoping to top that list, claiming its silicon will be cheaper than existing competitors.

The approach taken by this small startup is most similar to that of Sila and Group14. Both established companies impregnate porous graphite structures with silicon; Sila also adds a coating to the particles. Based on the company’s patent, Ionobell appears to have flipped the script. It starts with a porous silicon structure instead of a graphite structure, then surrounds it with a coating.

“It’s not going to bloat,” Ionobell co-founder and CEO Robert Neivert told TechCrunch. “It’s like throwing a neurosphere into water and it absorbs without changing the shell.”

Silicon can accept 10 times more lithium ions than graphite. But it expands so much in the process that regular silicon anodes will crumble when reused. This fragility prevents manufacturers from adding too much of the element, usually less than 10%.

Still, the promise of silicon cannot be ignored.

Neivert said Ionobell’s silicon supply comes from scrap, which helps keep costs down. “Most of the cost savings are in materials,” he said, adding that Ionobell’s material is cheaper than graphite.

Neivert first met Ionobell as an investor. At first, he said, “I turned down their investment” and told them all the reasons why auto suppliers wouldn’t adopt their technology. The team went back to work and solved the problem to Neivert’s satisfaction, including adapting their materials to widely used manufacturing equipment. Neivert found some initial funding and joined them as CEO.

According to Pitchbook, the final round of funding will close in 2020. However, Ionobell recently closed an unpriced $3.9 million seed extension, TechCrunch has learned exclusively. Dynamo Ventures and Trucks VC led the round.

Such delays have become increasingly common as deep tech companies are short of capital but as markets begin to reset after the bubble start of the 2020s.

Like other battery materials companies, Ionobell faces a challenging road. The verification process required by automotive companies can be long and arduous; not all materials will pass.

In addition, competitors such as Group14 and Sila are close to commercialization, with their silicon-rich anodes set to hit the market as early as this year and next.

Ionobell has a lot of ground to make up, although its promised lower price could provide a boost. Regardless, the next wave of lithium-ion innovation is coming, and silicon is leading the way.

#Ionobells #recycled #silicon #battery #material #aims #increase #electric #vehicle #range

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *