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Hundreds of jobs are coming to Moses Lake after two companies nab $200 million to develop materials for electric vehicle batteries

Oct. 20, 2022 Updated Thu., Oct. 20, 2022 at 8:52 a.m.

California-based Sila Nanotechnologies was awarded a $100 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to build out its 600,000-square-foot factory in Moses Lake where it will manufacture silicon anode materials for batteries used in electric vehicles.   (Rendering courtesy of Sila Nanotechnologies)
California-based Sila Nanotechnologies was awarded a $100 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to build out its 600,000-square-foot factory in Moses Lake where it will manufacture silicon anode materials for batteries used in electric vehicles.  (Rendering courtesy of Sila Nanotechnologies)

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $200 million to a pair of companies planning to build factories in Moses Lake that would employ hundreds of people to develop and produce battery materials for use in electric vehicles.

Group14 Technologies Inc., based in Woodinville, and Sila Nanotechnologies, headquartered in Alameda, California, will each receive $100 million grants.

Sila Nanotechnologies bills itself as a next-generation battery materials company that is investing $300 million of its own financing, along with the $100 million grant, to renovate an existing 600,000-square-foot building where it will produce silicon anode materials, which the company says is a cheaper, more efficient alternative to graphite anodes typically used in electric vehicle batteries.

Sila estimates it will produce 20 gigawatts of capacity from these materials within four years from its 160-acre Moses Lake campus by 2026, enough to power more than 200,000 electric vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz will be the facility’s first commercial customer and has selected Sila’s anode materials for use in its G-Class series of electric vehicles, according to a company release.

Sila anticipates hiring 150 to 300 workers for the plant. It will be partnering with local high schools and vocational training programs as well as Big Bend Community College and Columbia Basin College to recruit and train employees.

Sila chose to open a plant in Moses Lake based on the area’s access to hydropower and other factors, said Steve Driskill, Sila’s vice president of general counsel.

“We did a nationwide search to find one of the best places to manufacture our product and Moses Lake checked all the boxes for us,” he said.

Sila is currently in the design phase for its Moses Lake plant with plans to begin renovations of the existing building by mid-2023. The company anticipates initial production of silicon anode materials to begin in 2025, Driskill said.

Sila will initially operate within the existing 600,000-square-foot building, but its goal is to expand operations on the 160-acre site, Driskill said.

“We are the first and, so far, the only company to have silicon (anode) material that’s sold commercially,” Driskill said. “We have product. We have demand. This additional funding is going to help us scale faster.”

Group14 Technologies, a silicon battery technology manufacturer and supplier, is investing $223 million of its own funds, in addition to the $100 million Department of Energy grant to build a battery-active materials plant that will produce silicon-carbon composite anodes for lithium-ion batteries.

The factory will have two 2,000-ton-per-year manufacturing modules capable of powering about 100,000 electric vehicles, according to a company release.

Group14 expects to create 300 jobs with plant construction and an additional 200 technical jobs to sustain production. The company opened its first commercial-scale battery-active materials factory in Woodinville in April 2021.

“We expect to be online with our first module in our BAM-2 factory by the end of 2023,” Rick Constantino, cofounder and chief technology officer of Group14, said in an email. “Once our first module is online, we will continue to build additional modules to meet increasing customer demand.”

In May, Group14 raised $400 million in a funding round led by Porsche AG that will go toward building its Moses Lake factory.

The Moses Lake projects are among 20 in 12 states that received a total of $2.8 billion in grants from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand domestic battery manufacturing for electric vehicles.

In an announcement Wednesday, President Joe Biden said the 20 projects were selected from more than 200 applicants for the Department of Energy grants.

“Together, these 20 companies are going to build new commercial-scale battery production and processing facilities all across America,” Biden said. “They’re going to develop lithium to supply over 2 million vehicles every year. And that $2.8 billion investment is going to unlock billions of dollars in private investment from these companies.”

The federal investment, when matched by the recipients, will total more than $9 billion that will go toward boosting clean energy technology.

This article was updated Oct. 20 to add comments from President Joe Biden’s announcement on Wednesday.

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