Electric Mercedes G-Class will go the distance with Sila’s energy-dense silicon anodes

Mercedes-Benz announced today that Sila’s energy-dense silicon anode is slated for an extended-range version of the electric G-Class that’s due out in 2025.

Sila said that its silicon anode material can boost energy density by 20% to 40% over existing cells, enabling a longer range from battery packs that occupy the same physical space. That extra density will come in handy when powering Mercedes’ blocky, brawny G-Wagen.

Mercedes first invested in Sila in 2019 as part of a $219 million Series E round. Earlier this month, the startup announced that it had purchased a 600,000 square-foot factory in Moses Lake, Washington. The plant is expected to start cranking out battery materials in late 2024 before reaching full production in early 2025, just in time for the G-Class. It should make enough silicon anode material for 100,000 to 500,000 EVs, depending on how automakers want to incorporate it into their cells.

Today, Sila’s technology is available in the Whoop 4.0 fitness tracker, a small device with a battery that’s a tiny fraction of what’s needed for an EV. Still, the smaller scale will allow Sila to perfect its manufacturing technique, working out the kinks before scaling up 100x to reach the volumes needed by automakers.

The first phase of the company’s Washington plant will make 10 GWh of battery materials per year, but CEO Gene Berdichevsky told TechCrunch earlier this month that the second phase will expand production to 150 GWh.

Getting to that point won’t be cheap. Berdichevsky estimated that it’ll cost another $1 billion to $2 billion to get the second phase of the factory into production. The company has raised $933 million in total, according to PitchBook, including a $590 million round that closed in January 2021.

While raising a couple billion is never an easy task, Sila may benefit from a tailwind: As automakers have ramped up their commitments to EVs, VCs and private equity firms have been investing larger and larger sums into battery companies — some $43 billion over the last five years alone.