Mercedes is the first publicly announced automotive customer of battery startup Sila Nanotechnologies, founded by an ex-Tesla engineer.
Mercedes-Benz will incorporate a new, highly energy-dense battery in its upcoming electric G-Class from 2025, a solution to the problem of how to power large electric cars without weighing them down with heavy batteries.
The battery, made by startup Sila Nanotechnologies, uses silicon-based anodes and is 20 to 40 percent more energy dense than comparable cells currently available, Mercedes said.
Silicon provides an alternative to the more commonly used graphite, 70 percent of which comes from China. Tesla said in 2020 that it would build up the use of silicon in its batteries.
Mercedes is the first publicly announced automotive customer of California-based battery startup Sila Nanotechnologies, which is investing a figure in the low hundreds of millions of dollars in a new plant in Washington state due to open in 2024.
Mercedes has a minority equity stake in the unlisted Sila, which is also working with BMW.
Sila, founded by an ex-Tesla engineer, raised an additional $590 million last year, boosting its valuation to an estimated $3.3 billion.
“Delivering such a high energy density is a true game changer and allows us to think in completely new directions when developing future electric cars,” Mercedes Chief Technology Officer Markus Schaefer said in a statement.
The G-Class is among the most expensive cars in the Mercedes range, playing an increasingly important role in the manufacturer’s strategy of boosting margins to help fund its transition to EV technology.
When a battery is charged, ions flow from the cathode to the anode. When it’s discharged, the ions reverse course. The conventional anode material is graphite, but researchers have been looking at silicon as an alternative to develop a battery that can pack more energy.
When Mercedes came up with the G-Class in the late 1970s, its boxy design and all-terrain capabilities were envisioned for soldiers and explorers.
It largely stayed in that niche until the SUV boom vaulted the model more into to the mainstream, gaining high-profile customers including Sylvester Stallone, Kim Kardashian and Megan Fox.
Mercedes didn’t provide an update on the electric G-Class’s expected range.