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Ionic is trying to make halloysite happen for EVs

Illustration of a mining cart full of batteries.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

A Utah-based startup announced the debut of a product the company says is a replacement for graphite in lithium-based batteries used by electric vehicles.

Why it matters: Companies developing silicon-based battery materials are seeing an influx of funding due to the EV market's projected growth, in addition to buy-in from automakers Porsche, Mercedes and BMW.

  • Ionic Mineral Technologies, headquartered in Salt Lake City, says the company is developing its nano-silicon material naturally, by mining halloysite. The mining approach is meant to bring the cost of the nan0-silicon lower than if it were made synthetically.

Meanwhile: Ionic in July closed its third fundraising round since its launch in 2020.

  • Founder Andre Zeitoun tells Axios that the round gave the company a $300 million post-money valuation.

State of play: Graphite is plentiful, but it's among the bottlenecks holding back faster charging and longer range in EV batteries. Nano-silicon is seen as a potential drop-in replacement that would enable batteries to charge more quickly.

  • Companies such as Sila and Group14 use silane gas to make a silicon-based graphite alternative. (A company called REC Silicone is a key supplier of silane gas.)
  • Ionic, by contrast, says it can make its alternative more cheaply and efficiently by mining halloysite, a clay-like mineral.
  • The company says it controls the world’s largest deposit of high-purity halloysite.

Of note: "We’re not trying to produce something new. We just have a more efficient, scalable way of actually producing it," Zeitoun says. "Extracting minerals from an open-pit mine is a heck of a lot cheaper than silane gas."

  • The company notes via BloombergNEF that global demand for EVs is expected to go from 9% today to 60% by 2030.
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