Sign in

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


In The Mobilist. More on Medium.

The trick will be keeping all the innards cool

A new fast-charging station at JFK Airport in New York. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty

Some time, years in the future, our transportation mindsets may change — we may forget all about what we now regard as the convenient corner gasoline station, and the reliably quick fill-up while rushing to an appointment or dropping off the kids. Instead, most of us will have new muscle memory and simply plug in our electric vehicle as soon as we get home, so it’s all charged up in the morning. If we happen to occasionally need added juice — say, for the random time we are on a long holiday — charging stations will be concentrated at intervals…

Not so fast for EVs, LFP’s comeback, tinkering with lithium sulfur

Photo:Norman Smith/Fox/Getty

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

About that fait accompli: Across the world of electric vehicles and batteries, the accepted wisdom is that Americans — and motorists everywhere — are on the cusp of a big switch. En mass, they are about to discard their long-cherished combustion vehicles and adopt EVs. Last week, though, I profiled Toyota chief scientist Gill Pratt, who said, Not So Fast. Pratt said the Japanese carmaker expects motorists to continue to demand all sorts of vehicles, and that Toyota’s plans are to serve these many markets. …

What, should it just give up a $42-billion-a-year golden goose?

Ford CEO Jim Farley at the big unveil of the Ford electric F-150 on Wednesday. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty

America is the country of the pickup truck, and for decades the zenith of American pickup ownership has been the Ford F-150, the most popular vehicle on the road. Whether they have needed one to haul a trailer filled with construction equipment, or to just make a personal statement in the neighborhood, Americans have bought more or less 800,000 F-150s every year. For Ford, this has been a godsend — in 2019, the company earned about $42 billion from its F-series pickups, by far its most reliable revenue center.

So it was that Ford, along with President Biden, Jimmy Fallon…

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…

Ford’s announcement signals a late U.S. bid to compete head-to-head with Europe and China

Ford’s new electric Mustang Mach-E SUV crossover. Photo courtesy of Ford

For Ford, the fear of a Kodak moment came January 28, when Mary Barra, CEO of rival General Motors, announced that as of 2035, her company aimed to be making only electric vehicles (EVs) for the consumer market. GM would continue to manufacture a heavy pickup or two with gasoline engines. But for GM, Barra said, the age of combustion was effectively over.

Exactly a week later, Ford CEO Jim Farley — who took the helm of the decidedly EV-skeptical company in October — announced he will double spending to develop EVs and autonomous vehicles. …

But most battery researchers don’t believe it

QuantumScape’s breakthrough separator. Photo courtesy of QuantumScape

On its first day of trading in November, shares of QuantumScape, a lithium-metal battery startup, surged by 57% in price. Then 10 days later, the price doubled, and less than two weeks after that, it was up another 72% — a total 5.7-fold increase in less than a month. The price has since plunged back to earth — sort of. As of the close of trading yesterday, it was up a mere 80% since its debut two months ago.

But the stock’s dramatic rise has its logic if you understand that QuantumScape is at the center of a whirlwind in…

EV charging, the Return of LFP, and the Lancia Fulvia

Envelopes of different sizes
Envelopes of different sizes
Photo: Joanna Kosinska/Unsplash

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

The future of charging prices: Last week, I wrote that charging your electric vehicle is cheap now, but that in a few years’ time, it won’t be. Once EVs achieve cost parity with gasoline-propelled vehicles, likely about mid-decade, I argued, the clock will start ticking for cheap electricity. Eventually, you’ll be paying the equivalent of a gasoline fill-up. I invoked the rule of hamburgers to explain why. If you want to know what that is, read the piece.

I got massive pushback. Among those disputing the thesis was…

Solid state, the Biden agenda, and congratulations

Photo: Brian Patrick Tagalog/Unsplash

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

Solid state, this decade: Until very recently, dreams of using pure lithium metal in a solid state battery were just that — dreams. But at once, a number of startups have said they will commercialize such a battery by 2025 or so, including QuantumScape, Solid Power, and ProLogium. In a tweet, James Frith, head of energy storage at BloombergNEF, goes along with this forecast and says solid state will be much cheaper than liquid electrolyte cells.

Biden will put EVs and batteries center stage: In a note to…

A supercautious Sujeet Kumar is attracting positive reviews for his silicon anode

Photo: Anastasiia Krivenok/Getty

In 2015, I published a book called The Powerhouse, which followed a group of researchers at Argonne National Laboratory as they attempted to create a super battery. Two members of this group had invented NMC, which later became the industry’s go-to battery chemistry, used by everyone except Tesla. Now, it was trying to move to NMC 2.0, a turbo-charged advance of the formulation.

But on the sidelines, a Silicon Valley startup called Envia Systems was racing to accomplish the same thing. Envia had licensed Argonne’s invention, and gotten GM intensely interested in its version of the chemistry. So interested that…

The Supercar, China, and a slew of awards

Outgoing mail in green mailbox with a red flag in upright position.
Outgoing mail in green mailbox with a red flag in upright position.
Photo: madisonwi/E+/Getty

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

Much is said about the speed of the electric car: In Ludicrous mode, the Tesla S goes from zero to 60 in 2.3 seconds. The Lucid Air does the same in 2.5 seconds, and the Porsche Taycan Turbo S in 2.6. Super cool for the new age of electrics. But what about tradition and the original supercars as conceived by the Italians — the Ferrari, the Lamborghini, and Pininfarina? …

The Mobilist

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store