In a recent press release, Group14 Technologies announced its first commercial-scale US manufacturing facility. The 27,000-square foot space in Woodinville, Washington, will help meet the growing demand for the manufacturer’s energy dense lithium-silicon anode materials.
Group14 Technologies was founded in 2015 in Washington state as a spinout of enerG2 based in Seattle. Since then, the company has seen breakthroughs in battery materials that can bring new levels of energy density to lithium-ion-powered vehicles. This is achieved through its drop-in ready nanomaterials and scalable processes that have been verified by multiple third-party OEMs and battery manufactures. Some current investors include ATL, BASF, and SK materials, a part of SK Group.
Group14’s new US facility
Per its press release, Group14’s 27,000-square-foot factory is located at the company’s current headquarters in Woodinville, Washington. Furthermore, the facility will also house a new R&D center and corporate offices.
Group14 is commercializing the technology that enables lithium-silicon batteries. In speaking with Electrek, the company feels this is the next evolution after the classic lithium-ion battery. The main difference with these new batteries is the swapping out the traditional graphite anode for a silicon carbon-based anode. Group14’s co-Founder and CEO Rick Luebbe explained:
Silicon has much higher capacity than graphite, but the challenge has been getting silicon to be stable in a lithium-based battery. It swells a lot when it lithiates, and that causes a lot of mechanical stresses in the battery. Our composite that we’ve invented effectively is porous – has nanopores in it, so when the silicon is deposited and those pores expand, it expands within the pores, so the particle itself doesn’t expand.
Group14 is promising its silicon composite technology can help deliver up to 50% more energy density per volume than a lithium-ion-based battery, providing the cycle life that is necessary for consumer electronics and electric vehicles.
Group14 looks to bring batteries back to the US
The newly-announced facility in the Pacific Northwest is capable of producing 120 tons per year of Group14’s lithium-silicon technology (SCC55). But what may be even more important is the fact that they’re doing it here in the States. The goal is to scale and to do so quickly. Co-Founder and CTO Rick Costantino said:
We leveraged our team’s deep commercial manufacturing experience to prioritize process development and designing for cost from the beginning, which is key to scaling as rapidly as possible without sacrificing quality, performance and safety. The process to manufacture SCC55 was designed from the start to be scaled quickly and efficiently, an approach that has kept us on track to bring our technology online to help power consumer electronics, electric vehicles and more — immediately.
A huge factor in this effective design and scalability is that it’s a drop in technology, an attribute that was crucial to Group14 when developing SCC55. For battery manufacturers utilizing Group14’s lithium-silicon anodes, they can incorporate them immediately without any change to the long-established battery capacity design. It can either blend with graphite or completely replace graphite, so it can be widely adopted by all manufacturers.
Looking ahead for Group14 and US manufacturing
Because of this design and the surplus of necessary materials in Washington state, Group14 plans to not only scale manufacturing in the US, but do so quickly and effectively to keep up with the demand of a growing EV industry. CEO Rick Luebbe elaborates:
What else is exciting for us is being able to do this domestically. We recognize there’s a huge focus and effort, not just for the United States, but every key industrial region, to try to bring battery manufacturing into a domestic environment. The US is a little behind, so we’ve got a long way to go to get our own battery supply chain established here. But we think we’re one key component of getting that started, at least on the anode side.
Currently, Group14 produces a majority of its anodes for battery manufacturers in Asia and has already opened international offices in Japan and South Korea to keep in better contact with its customer base. However, as manufacturers like LG Chem and SK Innovation make moves to manufacture in the US, Group14 will provide an even shorter supply chain to them.
With commercial production already underway, Group14 looks to double in size by the end of 2021. Furthermore, Group14 already has plans for a second facility in the US. CEO Rick Luebbe told Electrek the company plans to leap from 120 tons of annual capacity to 12,000 tons in just a few years. “Then we’re really talking about being able to support the EV space since that’s hundreds of thousands of vehicles at that scale.”
It’s not only refreshing to see EV components like battery technology being developed in the US, but to see the tables turned on the APAC market a bit. By creating a lithium-silicon anode that has been verified by these same battery manufacturers in Asia, Group14 is able to entice its customers with increased battery density which aids in price parity. A tremendous factor is scalability and affordability in EVs today.
Furthermore, Group14 can speak (and has) directly to EV OEMs in the US and showcase its technology and capabilities. In return, automakers may demand their battery manufacturers implement these anodes, which is fairly easy since they are drop-in.
OEMs want more capacity and longer range and have stretch contracts with battery manufacturers to achieve these goals. So you have automakers pushing Group14’s tech to battery companies and battery companies looking to companies like Group14 for help hitting contractual benchmarks. In a sense, Group14 is leveraging its technology from both ends of the customer pipeline. As a result, everyone wins… especially Group14.
It will be interesting to see this company expand stateside and work with Asian battery manufacturers in the United States to produce batteries that will be shipped all over the world. It’s just anodes for now but could be a huge step in taking back some manufacturing to US soil… and its silane gas.
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