The German carmaker is reacting by increasing its bet on EVs, in part through a large investment in lithium-silicon battery company Group14 Technologies, with its first electric vehicle currently outselling the classic 911 sports car. As part of a bigger $400 million Series C fundraising transaction, Porsche invested $100 million in Group14. OMERS, a Canadian pension fund, Decarbonization Partners, Riverstone, Vsquared Ventures, and Moore Strategic Ventures are among the other investors.
The main technology of Group14 is a silicon-carbon powder that may be used to replace or supplement graphite anodes. Most lithium-ion batteries nowadays utilize graphite as an anode, and it’s a good choice since its stable and can store a lot of energy. Graphite, on the other hand, is being pushed to its limits as automakers strive for higher energy densities. Silicon is an appealing option since it can retain significantly more lithium — up to ten times more in theory. However, the silicon’s Achilles’ heel is the same benefit. Because silicon absorbs so much lithium, the anode’s structure can be degraded by molecular-scale expansion and contraction, leading to premature failure.
Many firms are racing to build silicon-based anodes that can be charged and discharged repeatedly without breaking down. To accomplish so, the business injects a silicon-containing gas into a porous carbon scaffold. The ultimate product is a carbon composite with tiny silicon particles strewn throughout. Those particles capture lithium ions, while the carbon scaffold provides a stable structure that prevents the anode from decomposing as it is utilized. Group14 claims that its carbon-silicon compound can also be combined with graphite anodes and that it can be easily integrated into an existing battery manufacturing process.
The SCC55 material, according to the company, can store 50 percent more energy than typical graphite anodes. It presently operates one battery materials facility and is planning two more, one of which will open later this year as part of a joint venture with SK Group and the other of which will begin production in 2023. Porsche battery packs are expected to be produced in 2024, according to Group14. The promise of a smaller, more powerful battery must be enticing to a company like Porsche, which has established its name on lightweight, high-performance sports vehicles.
According to Greenpeace, improving battery technology is critical to decarbonizing the auto sector, which accounted for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. However, this potentially beneficial acquisition does little to erase some of Group14’s investors’ shady pasts, including a number of fossil fuel supporters. For example, Decarbonization Partners is a joint venture between BlackRock and Temasek. Although the two have funded several interesting, sustainability-focused startups like mushroom leather company MycoWorks, BlackRock has said that it will “continue to invest in and support fossil fuel industries.”
The $97.3 billion investment behemoth has a habit of speaking from both sides of its mouth. OMERS has multiple crude oil and gas enterprises in its portfolio, but the pension fund has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions across all of its investments by the year 2050. The new arrangement is a significant step forward for Group14 — by roughly a factor of ten. The Woodinville, Washington-based business had allegedly raised $41.5 million in venture capital and government subsidies prior to the funding round.