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Innovative powder-powered batteries could be the key to unlocking long-range, fast-charging EVs: 'It's sophisticated science'

"It took us 12 years and 80,000 iterations to get to this point."

"It took us 12 years and 80,000 iterations to get to this point."

Photo Credit: iStock

Panasonic has a purchase order with a California company to provide a common Earth element that could transform electric vehicle battery tech

Sila touts its Titan Silicon powder as a superb alternative to the graphite commonly used in batteries. The anode is opposite the cathode in battery cells. Both are needed for the charge/discharge cycle to work. 

The results of Sila's work could be big for drivers. A report from Wired notes that Titan could help EV batteries achieve a 40% increase in mileage, providing an 80% charge in the "time it takes to leisurely fill a tank with gas."

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The tech provides 20% more energy density, according to Sila's website. Energy density is the amount of power a battery can store "with respect to its mass," per the U.S. Department of Energy. 

"It took us 12 years and 80,000 iterations to get to this point," Sila co-founder Gene Berdichevsky said in the Wired story. "It's sophisticated science."

Silicon is the second-most common element in the Earth's crust. Sila claims its production method, which is underway at plants in California and Washington, is ready to turn it into anode powder with bulk production. The material is compatible with a variety of battery cell types and creates up to 70% less air pollution during production than graphite. The process is "sustainable for the environment," per Sila. 

Silicon's benefits haven't gone unnoticed, as other companies are using the element for various battery applications as part of the search for cleaner and less expensive transportation tech with a stable supply chain. 

Many of the materials needed for EV batteries are produced internationally. 

China, the world's leader in graphite production, recently placed export rules on the material. The news caused anxiety in the sector about the supply. Bar graphs shared by data collector Statista show a similar pattern for graphite and silicon: China leads world production for both elements — by a wide margin. 

As an answer, Sila plans to hire up to 600 employees to ramp up production at the Washington facility to meet what it expects to be high demand for Titan, according to the Wired story. 

"We can replace anywhere from 50% to 100% of the graphite in lithium-ion batteries," Berdichevsky told Wired. 

Panasonic, a mainstay technology brand, seems to be a perfect partner. 

The Japan-based company has long worked on silicon battery tech, "successfully mass-producing the industry's first silicon-based EV batteries," the tech giant said in a press release. 

The company makes about 10% of the world's EV batteries, many of them in the U.S. are for Tesla, per the Wired report. 

Now, Panasonic's plan is to bolster the North American supply chain with help from Sila's product.

"In the past, the U.S. has been a leader in advanced battery research, but much of the actual manufacturing has taken place abroad. It is exciting to see U.S.-developed research being scaled at U.S. factories," Wellesley College environmental professor Jay Turner commented in the Wired story.

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