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The Mobilist
The future of batteries, electric cars, and driverless vehicles. A new blog from Medium.

Good morning! Welcome back to The Mobilist.

Today: The Mobilist is off today for brain-refreshment and returns tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

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Here we go.

The first thing to know is that Chinese companies have shown up in Argentina

Photo: Shutterstock

Last month, the CEO of China’s Jiankang Auto showed up in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires to follow up on a big deal he had signed — for an ongoing supply of battery-grade lithium for China’s insatiable electric vehicle industry. A few weeks later, BMW signed its own deal for Argentine lithium, a $334 million agreement for supply starting next year.

But Argentina, part of an oblong-shaped triad of Latin American countries possessing about two-thirds of the planet’s lithium, is no longer satisfied being the mere object of supply-desperate countries and companies out to win the global electric vehicle…

Blood feud, gigafactory chronology, useless batteries and new podcast

Photo: MJ Kim/Getty

Each Wednesday, The Mobilist highlights reader articles on Medium, comments, and updates.

The South Korean battery blood feud: This week, I wrote about the coming deadline Saturday for President Biden to decide whether to side with LG Chem and stop SK Innovation from supplying lithium-ion batteries from a new plant in Georgia. The batteries would be for Ford’s coming electric F-150 pickup and VW’s SUV crossover ID.4. The International Trade Commission ruled that SKI stole trade secrets from LG in order to invent its battery, a position that SKI vehemently denies…

A deadline this week adjudicating a South Korean blood feud

On the way to launching his infrastructure plan and batteries initiative. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

At a fragile moment in the global technological war, President Biden is on the cusp of an extraordinary decision that some say could influence how fast and robustly the U.S. begins to ramp up battery manufacture at a time rivals Europe and China are already well on their way.

By Saturday, Biden must decide whether to step in and set aside a February ruling by the International Trade Commission banning SK Innovation, an important South Korean company, from making lithium-ion batteries in the United States for a decade. The ruling sided with one of SKI’s blood enemies, LG Chemical, which…

Cell-making is essential but the President cited batteries just once

Photo courtesy of Siemens

For a decade, China has been building battery and electric vehicle industries, making it by far the biggest player in these technologies of the future. Over the last three years, Europe has sought to catch up, putting billions of dollars behind the creation of its own homegrown lithium-ion and EV industries. Today, the pair are more or less the global EV pantheon.

In a speech this week, President Biden made the United States’ first stab, in a decade, at getting fully into the race. He pledged $174 billion in funding, which is a large sum — 72 times the amount…

The life of batteries, mandatory recycling, and new media

Each Wednesday, The Mobilist highlights reader articles on Medium, comments, and updates.

Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty

Life of batteries, redux: Last week, researchers at Stanford triggered a to-do in the battery world with a paper at Nature Energy suggesting that lithium-metal batteries had a problem: over time, the calendar life of such batteries plunged by up to 25%. The consternation was because of the implication — numerous automakers are looking to lithium-metal anodes to help bring down the cost of their next-generation batteries, a dream that could be threatened if they lost so much capacity.

But in a presentation yesterday to an audience of…

They are ignoring the most likely winner, suggests a top expert — China Inc.

Xpeng P7 at the Beijing Auto Show last September. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty

For two weeks, Volkswagen has held auto industry analysts and reporters in unusual thrall: This 84-year-old German automaker, these opinion-makers have said, has managed a miraculous pivot from a legacy industrialist to a front-runner in the race to be the world’s number one producer of electric vehicles. Weighing in, Wall Street sent up VW shares by 20% in the last half of March, while cutting 13% from the stock price of Tesla, the current industry leader.

“The end of Tesla’s dominance may be closer than it appears,” reported Bloomberg. …

A new paper has claimed up to a 25% capacity loss

Lithium in its pure extracted state in evaporation ponds at Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia. Photo: Pablo Cozzaglio/AFP/Getty

For years, they were the Don Quixotes of the battery world — tinkerers in pure lithium metal romantically seeking to install them in batteries, only to find them catching fire and the answers they thought would fix them a mirage. Then, over the last six months, these People of La Mancha became the toast of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, winning high-dollar valuations in SPAC deals and courted by virtually every major automaker in the world.

Now, a new paper published Monday at Nature Energy has triggered a heated debate in the battery community, asserting that in certain cases, lithium-metal…

Show-stopper for lithium-metal, Tesla safety, battery mania

Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty

Each Wednesday, The Mobilist highlights reader articles on Medium, comments, and updates.

The first item has been corrected to show that the total loss is about 25%, and 2%-3% in the first 24 hours. (h/t Matt Lacey)

‘Not so fast’ for lithium metal anodes: A surprising new paper in Nature Energy suggests that many of the most promising current lithium-metal batteries may have a fatal defect. The paper, authored by nine researchers at Stanford led by Yi Cui, a prominent materials scientist, says that when lithium metal is at rest, it loses 2%-3% of its capacity the first 24 hours…

Automakers and governments see a strategic and geopolitical necessity

Super-chargers in Topeka, Kansas. Photo: Mark Reinstein/Corbis/Getty

According to one prevailing view of the future, the combustion-rooted landscape to which we have become accustomed over the last century — gasoline stations always at hand if we need them, grouped in threes and fours on some urban corners — will go the way of the buggy whip. Instead, when people are in electric vehicles and running low on juice, this outlook predicts, they won’t scan the horizon for a service station, but will already have charged up at home or work. …

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