Sila breaks ground on Washington facility

For the Basin Business Journal | January 6, 2024 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Sila Nanotechnologies officially opened its Moses Lake plant Nov. 29.

“This moment has been 12 years in the making,” said Gene Berdichevsky, co-founder and CEO of Sila.

“And the journey to this point can be summed up, really, in two words: passion and persistence. Many startups have origin stories that began in a garage, but we were not that cool. We started out in a windowless basement lab of Georgia Tech. Back then there were only 13 of us, working shoulder to shoulder back to back literally intent on doing what we believed – what many believed — was impossible.”

That not-impossible feat was developing a nano-composite silicon that could increase the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries, for electric vehicles and other applications. 

“I started my career as a mechanical engineer, and I ended up having the good fortune of being the seventh employee at Tesla, back 15-plus years ago, and I did a lot of the work on the Roadster battery system,” Berdichevsky said in an interview. “So I've been a battery guy my whole career. I led a lot of the development on that, and after we got that into production, I wanted to work on something even harder. So I went back, and I studied chemistry and material science.”

Berdichevsky founded Sila in 2011, along with fellow Tesla alum Alex Jacobs and Dr. Gleb Yushin, professor of materials science at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Sila, which has a small production facility in Alameda, California, purchased the 600,000-square-foot Washington building last year. The building’s previous two owners had never actually used it, according to Construction Manager Steve Hastings.

Sila’s product is called Titan Silicon, and it’s designed to replace the graphite that’s the standard material used in battery anodes.

“The silicon anode is incredibly hard to get right,” Berdichevsky said in an interview. “But if you get it right – and we have – you can store 20-40% more energy in every battery that you make ... and over the next few years, we'll get that up to 30% and 40%.”

“You’ve got to understand what 20% increase in density means,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at the opening, which was also attended by state legislators. “It means 20% increased mileage for electric cars. If you took the zero out of there and it was 2%, it (would deserve) the Heisman trophy and the Nobel Peace Prize, both. Twenty percent is a quantum leap for humans, not just the state of Washington.”

Replacing graphite with silicon is also a way of reducing dependence on foreign imports, explained Giulia Siccardo, director of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains.

“Graphite is currently the most widely used material in lithium-ion battery production,” Siccardo said. “But over 90.95% of graphite is currently mined and processed in China. This is a significant challenge for us as we think about the risks that it poses to our supply chain and the risks that it creates in terms of disruption and instability.”

Moses Lake is well suited to Sila’s operation, Berdichevsky said, because of its clean, cheap electricity and workforce with high-tech manufacturing experience. Sila’s Moses Lake plant is also located right across the road from REC Silicon, which will manufacture the silane that’s used to make Titan Silicon.

Sila will hire about 100 full-time employees, or “Silazens,” to operate the plant at the outset, Berdachevsky said. The plant will take about a year to complete, he said, and will begin shipping product in mid-2025. Sila already has an agreement with Mercedes-Benz to material for its G-Wagon luxury electric SUV. Berdichevsky said he hopes to grow the operation to put out material for 1 million vehicles a year with a team of 500 employees or more in the next five to seven years.

Plant Manager Rosendo Alvarado, an eastern Washington native and former manager at REC Silicon, said Sila’s values were a good fit for the community.

“My parents came here in the early ’50s,” Alvarado said. “They moved up from Texas because there was a lot of agricultural work. We worked at farms surrounding this area; they owned trucks and hauled potatoes. So at a really, really young age, I started working out in these fields and really had the opportunity to learn the values of hard work and long days … Now it's my job to move this this project forward and to get this plant up and running and established to scale up that they have in their vision. And we'll definitely make that possible.”

“A lot has changed since that time in the windowless lab,” Berdichevsky said. “I've personally gotten a little more sun, and the world has moved towards embracing electrification in our cities, our roads, our lives. The shift has brought a new wave of innovation in manufacturing, which one, that is very much a part of the legacy here in the U.S. And after 30 years of outsourcing our technologies, we're inventing again, and we're building again and we're producing again.”

Joel Martin may be reached via email at

    Sila Nanotechnologies CEO Gene Berdichevsky, left, talks with Gov. Jay Inslee
 Joel Martin/Basin Business Journal 
    Sila Moses Lake Plant Manager Rosendo Alvarado speaks at the plant’s construction ceremony Nov. 29.
 Joel Martin/Basin Business Journal