The Race of the Decade: Who Will Be the First to Produce the Silicon Anode?

Over the past few decades, the demand for alternative energy has surged. Companies are investing heavily into meeting this demand and paving the way for a low carbon future. One of the most booming industries to jump aboard this trend is the automobile industry. During the early stages of electric vehicles (EV), the manufacturing costs were so high and the concept so fresh that analysts were forecasting a fast demise. They were quickly proven wrong.

The Race of the Decade: Who Will Be the First to Produce the Silicon Anode?

A former Tesla employee is going the extra mile to push EV batteries into new territories by 2025; cue Gene Berdichevsky.

Gene Berdichevsky was the seventh employee to join Tesla during the launch of their stardom. Having graduated from Stanford with a master’s in energy engineering, the Ukrainian-born entrepreneur fell in love with creating new innovations that defy the mainstream standards. During his four years at the company, Berdichevsky was able to take what knowledge he learned and utilize it to his advantage. After leaving Tesla, Berdichevsky started his own company, Sila Nanotechnologies, which focuses on creating innovative batteries to power electric vehicles. The startup launched in 2011 and is currently valued at over $1 billion.

Tesla is currently the only commercial company that has a small portion -5%- of silicon incorporated into their battery design. Berdichevsky’s goal is to beat this number by producing the first 100% silicon anode battery by 2025. The new technology would provide a 20% increase in energy density and up to 10x more driving range. Once the new design is fully implemented, the capacity at which Berdichevsky’s plant will produce silicon anodes will be enough to supply roughly 1 million electric vehicles a year.

Though there is one thing that might stand in Berdichevsky’s way; competition.

General Motors, QuantumScape, Solid Power and Tesla all promise to release a similar design within the next five years. All of these companies have promised exceptional innovations that will be better for the planet, more efficient for the driver, and revolutionary for the industry. With the increase of resources being invested into the race for the best electric vehicle, this decade has the potential to alter the future of the automobile industry as we know it.

The Power Behind the Wheel

Lithium is the source that provides the energy for batteries. This means that more lithium equals more energy output. In today’s EV batteries, the carbon model is the most commonly used. The batteries typically require six carbon atoms to store one lithium atom. The new battery design would only require one silicon atom to store roughly four lithium atoms. Hence why so many companies are looking to produce silicon anode batteries. This outcome would lead to greater efficiency and fewer resources being used during production.

In the past, manufacturers have refrained from producing silicon anode batteries due to the increased risk; silicon can expand catastrophically and potentially lead to severe mechanical problems within the battery. The companies have only recently begun to explore this option thanks to newly developed technology that can mitigate any risk.

Similar to solar energy, the increase in consumer demand has already made the cost of EV batteries drop significantly since they were first launched. The projected growth is expected to be so large that electric vehicles will run a similar price to gas-powered vehicles by the end of the decade. This will result in a wider range of people being able to afford EVs, ultimately leading to a large reduction in carbon emissions.

What Does the Science Say?

The manufacturing process of electric vehicles has a similar environmental footprint to gas-powered vehicles. However, life-cycle assessments have shown that throughout the lifetime of an EV, the overall environmental impact is significantly reduced due to the increase in efficiency and lack of gasoline required.

When analyzing the Global Warming Potential, Acidification Potential, Eutrophication Potential, and Ozone Depletion Potential of silicon anodes, various peer-reviewed studies have found that they also have an energy-intensive manufacturing process. However, the overall environmental impact of silicon batteries is expected to be even lower than that of the current electric vehicle options, and even more so when compared to gas-powered vehicles.

The outcome to arise from this industry competition will shape the future of vehicles in the United States. The increase in efficiency can lead to immense sustainability benefits as fewer resources will be needed for maintenance. This will create a ripple effect throughout the entire environmental sector and ultimately create a new generation of eco-friendly cars.

Nobody knows exactly what the future holds, but with companies such as the aforementioned racing to deliver these new innovations, it seems that the industry is heading toward new and exciting realms.

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