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Microsoft takes a punt on silicon battery startup

If electric car ownership keeps going up, they’ll be coining it

Microsoft is one of the investors contributing to the latest funding round for Group14 Technologies, a company developing silicon battery technology for applications including electric vehicles.

According to Group14, it has successfully raised $214 million in additional financing from a consortium that includes Moore Strategic Ventures, Molicel, Lightrock Climate Impact Fund, Oman Investment Authority, and Microsoft's Climate Innovation Fund. This brings the company's total Series C funding round to $614 million, it said.

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The Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund was announced in 2020 as part of what the Redmond giant termed a "bold new environmental sustainability strategy," and was set up to invest $1 billion into new carbon reduction and removal technologies over a four-year period.

"Batteries are becoming the backbone of the clean energy transition," said the director of Microsoft's Climate Innovation Fund, Brandon Middaugh. He claimed that Group14's technology has the potential to accelerate decarbonization of transportation, electronics, energy storage, and more.

However, it isn't clear how much of the new funding is coming from Microsoft. In response to our query, the company said that the figure was not being disclosed at this time.

Group14's technology appears to revolve around silicon-based anodes that can be added to existing lithium-ion chemistry to create lithium-silicon batteries. The company claims that silicon has 10x the capacity of graphite, the material currently used for anodes in lithium-ion batteries.

Switching to lithium-silicon batteries would deliver a huge step change in performance for a tiny change in cost, Group14 argues in a white paper on its website.

The Washington-based company said that it aims to build factories capable of producing commercial-scale quantities of its silicon battery technology around the globe to address what it claims is rapidly growing demand from battery makers and automotive manufacturers.

"It comes down to shortening the path to market for OEMs so we can meet EV demand today," Group14 co-founder and CEO Rick Luebbe said in a statement. He reckons the industry is now at a crossroads for the future of electrified mobility.

Group14 said that its first factory opened at Woodinville, Washington in April last year with the capacity to produce 120 tons of its battery material each year.

The Series C funding, in conjunction with a $100 million grant from the Biden administration, will be used to build the company's second commercial-scale facility. It has also announced an additional factory as part of a joint venture in South Korea with SK Inc. ®

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