Australian battery tech start-up targets U.S. market after $22 million funding round

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Investors led by Indian chemical conglomerate Himadri Speciality Chemical and Australian venture capital firm Artesian have tipped $22 million (USD 14.9 million) into Wollongong-based Sicona Battery Technologies in support of its work with battery density-boosting technology developed at the University of Wollongong.

The Series A funding round was led by Kolkata-based Himadri, Artesian, and Electrification & Decarbonization AIE LP, a fund managed by Canada-based Waratah Capital Advisers. New York-headquartered Riverstone Ventures, Chaos Ventures, Investible Climate Tech Fund LP and Club Investible also participated in the funding round.

Sicona is working to commercialise its high-capacity silicon anode technology which has been flagged as a possible game-changer for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that dominate the electric vehicle (EV) and renewable energy storage market.

Sicona Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Christiaan Jordaan said the company’s silicon-composite anode technology delivers 50-100% higher capacity than conventional graphite anodes and its anode materials can deliver significantly higher cell energy density than current Li-ion batteries.

“Sicona’s core product is an innovative silicon metal-based silicon-composite battery anode technology enabling more than 50% increase in energy density of existing Li-ion batteries,” he said. “By using silicon metal, and not expensive, supply chain constrained and dangerous silane gas like our competitors, Sicona can offer low-cost silicon anode materials at large automotive scale locally in major markets.”

Jordaan said the latest funding round will allow Sicona, which has its headquarters and pilot plant based in Wollongong, just south of Sydney, to further its plans to establish a battery component manufacturing site in the United States where demand for anode materials is estimated to exceed 1,200 GWh by 2030.

“Due to significant interest in our materials from North American automotive companies, we are focusing our efforts on building Sicona’s first commercial-scale manufacturing plant in the U.S.,” Jordann said, noting that the support of Himadri “allows us to accelerate our mission of becoming a major producer of cost-effective silicon composite anode materials.”

“Himadri has a multi-decade track record of manufacturing materials at scale and their expertise and inputs will be a major asset to us in the next phases of our growth plans,” he said.

Sicona is already moving on the establishment of a U.S. manufacturing plant, having earlier this year appointed engineering and construction firm Bechtel to conduct an engineering study.

Sicona said it is now advancing those studies, site selection and customer qualification for the plant which is expected to be built in the southeast of the U.S. to serve customers in the that market with Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) compliant materials supply.

It is anticipated the plant will initially be capable of producing about five kilo tonnes per annum (ktpa) of silicon-carbon material, before scaling up to 20 ktpa.

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