Composite silicon based materials are described that are effective active materials for lithium ion batteries. The composite materials comprise processed, e.g., high energy mechanically milled, silicon suboxide and graphitic carbon in which at least a portion of the graphitic carbon is exfoliated into graphene sheets. The composite materials have a relatively large surface area, a high specific capacity against lithium, and good cycling with lithium metal oxide cathode materials. The composite materials can be effectively formed with a two step high energy mechanical milling process. In the first milling process, silicon suboxide can be milled to form processed silicon suboxide, which may or may not exhibit crystalline silicon x-ray diffraction. In the second milling step, the processed silicon suboxide is milled with graphitic carbon. Composite materials with a high specific capacity and good cycling can be obtained in particular with balancing of the processing conditions.
 Development of the inventions described herein was at least partially funded with government support through U.S. Department of Energy grant ARPA-E-DE-AR0000034 and California Energy Commission grant ARV-09-004, and the U.S. government has certain rights in the inventions.