As battery startups fail, Sila snaps up $375M in new funding

Amid a fraught environment for battery startups, Sila has raised $375 million to finish construction of a U.S. factory that will scale its next-generation battery technology for customers like Mercedes-Benz and Panasonic by the end of 2025.

Sila, formerly known as Sila Nanotechnologies, is slated to finish construction of its Moses Lake, Washington plant in the first quarter of next year, where the company will begin mass producing its branded Titan Silicon anode material.

The all-equity Series G round -- led by existing investors Sutter Hill Ventures with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Coatue, Perry Creek Capital and others -- comes as other electric vehicle battery companies struggle to get products to market and stay afloat.

Earlier this year, Ionic Materials shuttered its doors and Umicore slashed its guidance on a projected EV sales slump. Freyr Battery, a startup that joined the public markets in 2021 by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, has also failed to ramp up production for its next-gen battery.

“It’s obviously a very tough market out there for late-stage growth, anything with high capex and anything with EVs,” Sila founder and CEO Gene Berdichevsky told TechCrunch. “But we’ve got a great technology, we’re scaling, we’re on track with our factory, and this gets us through getting cars on the road, which is really the milestone that everybody in the world wants to see.”

Sila’s ability to raise such a large round in a challenging environment could be seen as a vote of confidence for the company’s approach to battery chemistry and its ability to scale production. Berdichevsky, who was the seventh employee at Tesla before founding Sila in 2011, has told TechCrunch before that it’s not enough to get the science right if you can’t do it in a way that’s fundamentally scalable.

That’s especially true in a world where hundreds of thousands of EVs are slated to come to market over the next few years, and automakers are increasingly looking for ways to end their reliance on China for critical battery materials.

Sila’s answer has been to replace the graphite in a lithium-ion battery’s anode with silicon, a material that can be produced anywhere rather than mined and processed in specific regions. Using silicon allows for a more local supply chain for critical battery materials and also makes for a denser, cheaper battery cell that can help EVs charge faster, Berdichevsky says. And by only switching out one component of the battery, cell makers don’t have to drastically change their production processes.

The anode is a key battery component that stores lithium when a battery is charging. Its counterpart, the cathode, stores lithium when the battery is discharged. The lithium moves back and forth between charge and discharge through an electrolyte liquid, and something called a separator keeps them from short-circuiting.

Berdichevsky says that by replacing graphite with silicon, Sila’s products today have a 20% to 25% increase in energy density.

“And in the future, we see that going up to about a 40% increase in energy density without changing anything else in the battery,” he said.

In a statement, Sila noted that future releases of Titan Silicon will also drive recharge times to less than 10 minutes and lower the cost of batteries.

Sila has been delivering its Titan Silicon to auto customers for years from its headquarters in Alameda, California, but only enough to bring the tech to test vehicles.

The Moses Lake facility allows for a scale and manufacturing standard for automotive series production, Berdichevsky says. From there, automakers will still need to do final validation qualification before getting Sila’s battery tech into production cars on a grand scale. Sila’s tech, for example, is slated to be used in the Mercedes electric G-Wagon, which recently launched in Beijing.

Aside from Mercedes, Sila has publicly announced plans to deliver its battery tech to Panasonic, which manufactures EV batteries for a range of automakers, most notably Tesla. Sila, which made its commercial debut in 2021 with Whoop wearables, plans to announce other automotive and consumer electronics customers in the future.

Berdichevsky says the Moses Lake facility is large enough to, with future expansions, expand to over a million vehicles’ worth of Titan Silicon.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated when Sila technology would be in the Mercedes G-Wagon.