From The Mobilist Inbox This Week

Apple car, the silicon race, and a billion years of lithium

Photo: Corbis/Getty

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

What’s with Apple: By far the most anticipated event in electric vehicles today is the Apple Car, expected to be the truest competitor to market leader Tesla. But, in a hugely egotistical auto industry, who will agree to swallow its pride and produce the Apple-branded EV? First, the reporting was that it would be South Korea’s Hyundai until that talk was squelched. Then it was Japan’s Nissan, but that also turned out not to be true.

In an email exchange, Mobilist reader Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush, says that VW and Ford are the next best cultural and strategic fits. Marriage choices can often confound, but Ford seems highly un-Apple-like. And while VW — owner of the Porsche and Audi brands — would be an excellent choice, it seems even less amenable to being a mere supplier. But Ives is adamant: Apple, he said, would simply be too seductive for VW to resist. “VW checks every box,” he said, “and when [CEO Tim] Cook calls, you drop what you’re doing and answer that call.”

The race to silicon: Last month, we chronicled the return of Sujeet Kumar, back as CEO of Zenlabs eight years after the collapse of disgraced Envia Systems, where he was CTO. Now, Kumar emails with validated data on his silicon anode from Idaho National Laboratory. Silicon and lithium metal anodes are the rival holy grails of next-generation lithium-ion batteries, and Kumar has been producing some of the best data of the startups working in silicon.

In the Idaho report, Kumar’s cells were fast-charged in 15 minutes for 896 cycles and finished with 90% of their capacity with specific energy of 315 watt-hours per kilogram. That’s sufficient, he said, for a 300,000-mile car. Next, Kumar told me he is awaiting data showing how many years the battery will last; the target is 10. “Slow feedback cycle is the reason why you don’t see any new innovation entering the marketplace right away,” Kumar said. “It will take good two years after building a perfect battery to collect the Cycle life and Calendar life data.”

EVs for a billion years: Is the EV industry heading for a shortage of lithium, as is often claimed? Mobilist reader Tim Holme, CTO of QuantumScape, the lithium-metal battery-maker, says the answer is no. In a Twitter thread, he calculates that the Earth contains sufficient volumes of the metal to make 100 million EVs a year for a billion years.

Editor at Large, Medium, covering the turbulence all around us, electric vehicles, batteries, social trends. Writing The Mobilist. Ex-Axios, Quartz, WSJ, NYT.

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