A Bid to Boost Battery Power Hits Market After Decade of Trying

(Bloomberg) — Next-generation battery company Sila Nanotechnologies Inc. finally has a product that consumers can take home — after 10 years of trying.

Sila’s technology now helps power a health and fitness-tracking wearable device from Whoop Inc., the companies announced Wednesday. It marks the first time since Sila’s founding in 2011 that the firm’s technology has been included in a mass-produced device.

Sila is one of a spate of upstart companies trying to substantially improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries, which power everything from phones to cars. Sila doesn’t make the batteries themselves — instead, it makes a silicon anode material to be incorporated into the battery cells, boosting the amount of energy they can store. Gene Berdichevsky, Sila’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said using Sila’s technology enabled Whoop to shrink the size of its fitness tracker by a third without sacrificing performance. 

“It’s a really small device with big implications and a big impact,” he said in an interview. Sila claims it can improve the energy density of batteries by about 20%, with the potential to reach 40% in time. The anode costs more than graphite ones that are today’s standard, although Sila expects to be able to reduce the price as it scales up manufacturing.

Sila, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, doesn’t plan to confine itself to wearables. The company has already announced partnerships with BMW AG and Daimler AG to help power electric cars, and this January raised $590 million to open a factory in North America. The company has not yet picked a site, Berdichevsky said.

“Tree-hugging is not the thing that’s going to save the world,” he said. “It’s going to be great products that people want to buy and use that are better than the old stuff.”

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