The electrochemical behavior of binder-free, germanium and silicon nanowires as high-capacity anode materials for lithium-ion battery systems is investigated in an ionic liquid electrolyte. Cyclic voltammetry, cycling tests, and impedance spectroscopy reveal a highly reversible lithium alloying/dealloying process, as well as promising compatibility between the Ge and Si materials and the electrolyte components. Reversible capacities of 1400 and 2200 mA h g(-1) are delivered by the Ge and Si anodes, respectively, matching the values exhibited in conventional organic solutions. Furthermore, impressive extended cycling performance is obtained in comparison to previous research on Li alloying anodes in ionic liquids, with capacity retention overcoming 50% for Si after 500 cycles and 67% for Ge after 1000 cycles, at a current rate of 0.5C. This stable long-term cycling arises due to the ability of the electrolyte formulation to promote the transformation of the nanowires into durable porous network structures of Ge or Si nanoligaments, which can withstand the extreme volume changes associated with lithiation/delithiation. Remarkable capacity is exhibited also by composite Ge and Si nanowire electrodes. Preliminary tests with lithium cobalt oxide cathodes clearly demonstrate the feasibility of Ge and Si nanowires in full batteries.