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Investors have staked $70 million on Sila Nano’s upgrade for lithium batteries

August 16, 2018

The startup’s announcement adds to more than $1.5 billion that’s poured into the energy storage sector so far this year—roughly triple the total from the same period last year—as investors rush to lay bets on technologies that could deliver longer-lasting gadgets, cheaper electric vehicles, and cleaner power grids.

Anode advances: Sila Nanotechnologies, which has developed a novel anode material for lithium-ion batteries, announced today that it raised $70 million in a Series D round led by Sutter Hill Ventures. Siemens’s venture firm Next47 and China’s Amperex Technology also participated in the deal, which raised the company’s total investments to $125 million.

Sila Nano, based in Alameda, California, is promising double-digit gains in the energy density of batteries using its materials. That could lead to EVs with longer range or lower price tags, and smart phones packed with “power-hungry next-generation features like bigger cameras or ultrafast 5G networks,” as MIT Technology Review previously reported (see “This battery advance could make electric vehicles far cheaper”).

Kind of a big deal: Sila’s announcement is part of what’s been a huge 2018 for funding in energy storage companies. According to the research firm Cleantech Group, the three biggest deals included a reported $790 million investment into lithium-ion battery maker Farasis; a nearly $160 million round for Skio Matrix, which makes electric vehicles and batteries; and a $100 million funding deal for solid-state battery outfit QuantumScape.

Driving forces behind the surge: Ken-Ichi Hino, an analyst with Cleantech Group, says there are several factors in play:

  • —A growing appetite for energy storage among Chinese and other investors in Asia
  • —Increasing competition in the EV space as automakers seek ways to gain market advantages
  • —Rising hopes around new capabilities promised by solid-state and other advanced approaches

What’s next?: Sila Nano, which finalized a deal with BMW earlier this year, intends to use the funds to scale up commercial manufacturing and invest in additional research and development for future products, chief executive Gene Berdichevsky said in an e-mail (see “35 Innovators Under 35”).

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