After developing a new method to create nanosilicon structures for more effective EV batteries, Dutch cleantech company E-magy is putting its money where its mouth is, including its new 5-million-euro investment, to ramp up production and help drive the energy transition.
In the last few years, the transition to green and sustainable energy has started to gain traction and electric vehicles (EVs) seem to be one of the biggest drivers. In the Netherlands alone, 2019 saw the all-electric Tesla Model 3 reach the summit as the country’s top-selling car. A year later, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation’s (ICCT) 2020 market monitor report, 25 percent of all new car registrations in the low lands were either plug-in hybrid, PHEVs, or battery, BEVs – a 10 percent increase from the year prior. However, to stay on this trajectory, many of the key enabling technologies are also in need of a transformation – namely the one at the heart of it all: batteries. This is where Dutch cleantech company E-magy is looking to change the game with its next-generation battery material.
While traditional batteries rely on graphite anodes for energy storage, the technology isn’t extremely efficient. Silicon, which has a much higher storage capability, is an extremely attractive option but has its own set of challenges. “For years, maybe decades, the industry has known that silicon could be a great alternative solution for high-energy anodes. If you look at it per kilogram, you’ll find that silicon is vastly superior in energy storage than graphite,” explains E-magy CEO Casper Peeters. “However, silicon has one big drawback: the material swells and expands so much during the charging process, that it’s rendered unusable.” Or at least it was.
In 2014, E-magy’s sister company RGS Development had a big breakthrough in an innovative technology. It had developed a process to cast and crystallize various materials, including silicon. “One of the most interesting applications was the opportunity to create a nanostructured silicon that could offer the increased energy capacity in batteries, without the issues of swelling,” recalls Peeters. That’s when the Broek-op-Langedijk-based battery materials company spun out and put all of its focus on the next generation of batteries.
The company’s core technology is a high-throughput silicon alloy casting machine that’s used to make nanoporous silicon. “The material is best described as a sort of nanosponge. It’s very similar to a sponge absorbing water, but in our case, the nanoporous silicon is absorbing lithium ions,” illustrates Peeters. “And because of this special structure of the material, we can achieve a 40 percent higher energy density than traditional graphite anodes. On top of that, we can control the physical expansion of the anodes and realize much shorter charging times, as well as lower the cost of production.”
While this innovation in battery technology has a huge potential of applications, the North-Holland battery materials specialist is keeping its focus narrowed-in on the EV market – and they’re already attracting attention. Just recently, the company announced that it was ready to ramp up production of its specialty material. It’s making preparations for a brand-new production facility, with a capacity of 3,000 tons annually – capable of supplying up to half a million EVs each year. Merely two months later, the cleantech company followed up announcing that it had secured an investment boost from Shift Invest and PDENH, as well as an innovation credit from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy – to aid in the acceleration of development at E-magy.
“Currently, we have one production facility in operation, and we’ll continue to utilize that heavily over the next couple of years. But now is the time for planning and getting the ball rolling on the new facility as we expect to greatly increase production,” explains Peeters. “The new investment will not only help us ensure that our new facility is up and running by the end of 2023, but it will enable us to continue to scale into the future. This means growing our team, growing our capacity and continuing to work with automakers and battery manufacturers with continuous material testing and qualification to meet the unique demands of our customers.”