Steve LeVine is the Washington, DC correspondent for Quartz. He writes about the intersection of energy, technology and geopolitics. In 2015, he published “The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World,” about the geopolitics of lithium-ion batteries. He closely follows and reports on advanced battery development, especially for electric vehicles.
Last week Steve published an online article, “We are racing towards an electric-car future. Can battery scientists keep up?” The article’s focus is on improving lithium-ion battery performance for electric vehicles, specifically by replacing the conventional graphite anode with a silicon anode. One section of the article describes the activity of “…a four-dozen-strong SWAT team of battery researchers pulled together by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to work on silicon anodes so they can be used in electric cars.” The section concludes, “The SWAT team members say that for now at least, they are far from a solution that will put silicon anodes in cars. Yet, a small number of startup battery companies say they’re making progress with the technology.”
Enovix is included as follows.
“This Silicon Valley startup, founded in 2007, is backed by $100 million in strategic venture capital from Intel, Qualcomm, and Cypress Semiconductor. Chief technology officer Ashok Lahiri says a 100% silicon anode is placed in a battery architecture that absorbs the swelling and thus doesn’t shatter. Enovix’s costs, he says, are contained by the use of mature solar wafer manufacturing techniques.
“…Enovix has only modeled and not demonstrated its first-stage costs, which it puts at $300 per kilowatt hour. What sets the company apart is its strategic partnerships. Cypress, through its SunPower solar subsidiary, has long used the precise same manufacturing system. And both Intel and Qualcomm appear to be potential Enovix customers down the road.”
The article expresses regret that silicon-anode development is initially focused on batteries for “small wearable electronics like watches,” and not immediately tackling the electric vehicle (EV) market. Since our founding in 2007, we have taken a deliberate, methodical approach towards advanced battery development and production. While the electric vehicle market for lithium-ion batteries is growing, the largest market is consumer electronics, especially for portable, mobile devices including wearables, smartphones, tablets and notebook computers.
We view the entire mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem as essential to a smarter, more sustainable future. And we believe that better batteries are as crucial for all mobile devices as for electric vehicles. Eventually, we believe our 3D silicon lithium-ion batteries will be used for a full-range of mobile applications, from the smallest sensors and everyday mobile devices to the largest electric vehicles.