Woodinville, Wash.-based Group14 Technologies has raised $17 million to expand development and sales of its silicon-carbon composite material that can replace the graphite anodes in lithium-ion batteries, dramatically improving their performance.
The new funding will allow the company to ramp up manufacturing at its pilot production facility and will help with next year’s groundbreaking of a large-scale plant in Moses Lake in Eastern Washington.
Group14 will begin deliveries to its first commercial customers in consumer electronics in the first quarter of next year. The company is also in talks with electric vehicle manufacturers internationally, said CEO and co-founder Rick Luebbe, though he wouldn’t provide specific details.
Excitement about batteries keeps growing. Their prices continue dropping and the market for EV batteries alone is predicted to grow by more than $44 billion globally between 2020 and 2024, according to the market research firm Technavio. This month the internet buzzed with headlines about QuantumScape, a company also working to improve lithium-ion batteries that has backing from Bill Gates and Volkswagen. VW hopes to use these batteries in its vehicles beginning in 2025, according to reports.
Luebbe is eager to emphasize that he has a solution that’s ready to go.
“This is not a tomorrow technology, this is a today technology. This is ready to produce and drop into batteries right now,” he said. “We can deliver these performance and cost improvements immediately.”
The Series B funding round was led by SK Materials, a manufacturer of special and industrial gases, and included participation from OVP Venture Partners. Total VC funding is north of $34 million. The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the company an additional $6.5 million, including a prize given in September as a winner of the department’s EV-focused Energy Storage Grand Challenge.
Group14 launched in 2015. It spun out of EnerG2, a University of Washington spinoff that Luebbe also co-founded and was acquired by German chemical company BASF in 2016. Luebbe was previously a U.S. Army aviation officer and CEO at Hubspan.
The startup says its technology can improve energy density by 50% compared to a battery with a conventional graphite anode. It’s suitable for lithium batteries in their many uses, including electronics, EVs, aviation, medical devices and storage for electrical grids. Luebbe said the initial focus has been consumer items because that’s the sector with the quickest adoption.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the amount of funding received by the Department of Energy.