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

Electric Car

In The Mobilist. More on Medium.

The message for the industry is that people won’t buy EVs just because they exist

Photo: Jens Schlueter/Getty

Since Dieselgate in 2015, it’s been plain that Volkswagen would pivot sharply away from combustion and rebrand itself as the world’s premier electric car company. For the last year, it’s made that more or less official, claiming that it will overtake industry titan Tesla in 2025, and continue its ascent from there. Based on such talk, Wall Street has driven up VW’s shares by 54% this year.

On the ground, meanwhile, VW has begun to put its first EVs on the market. In the U.S., its initial product is the ID.4 crossover SUV, which I drove for a half hour


Business of charging, the new $100, scholarly lingo

Photo: Derek Berwin/Fox/Getty

The business of charging: While most of the electrification industry has had its eyes fixed on electric vehicle makers and battery companies, some other, low-profile actors backed by big money have been looking for other angles to earn a fortune. Among them are EV charging network companies and recyclers. San Francisco-based TeraWatt Infrastructure falls generally into the former category: With $100 million in investment capital, TeraWatt is setting out to finance and build gigantic charging centers for the cargo industry — serving everything from Amazon delivery vans to semi-trucks.

In a video conversation yesterday, CEO Neha Palmer told me TeraWatt…


$60/kWh batteries, Elon on SNL, Gaming and batteries

Photo: Mansell/LIFE/Getty

The astonishing $60/kWh battery: I exchanged tweets with Eyvind Aven about yesterday’s piece on the U.S. Energy Department’s startling update of its target for lithium-ion battery costs. Until now, the industry — and Energy Department — Holy Grail has been to reach $100 per kWh, thought to be the inflection point for sticker-price parity with internal combustion. But the goal posts have moved: Tesla, Volkswagen and now the standard-creating Energy Department are all looking to $60/kWh as the new parity point.

For the automakers, $60/kWh is not a mere number, but a metaphorical bomb: Tesla and VW appear determined to…


Until Elon Musk’s Battery Day, the stretch goal was $100/kWh

Tesla Roadster, 2009. Almost the only commercial EV for sale at the time. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

Just last summer, the much-watched lithium-ion industry finally reached sight of a long-sought super-stretch goal — a battery pack costing $100 per kWh, allowing the price of electric vehicles to drop to that of conventional combustion. But in September, Tesla CEO Elon Musk held “Battery Day,” at which he declared that, to penetrate the mass market, EVs needed a crash diet, and proposed a roadmap to bring down battery prices another 40%, to about $56 per kWh. In March, Volkswagen, too, seemed to promise a battery costing around $60/kWh.

Now, the Energy Department — which tends to define standards across…


A 24th Tesla investigation, 1884 EV design, dry batteries

Photo: Terry Eiler/Library of Congress/Creative Commons

The Tesla safety and quality problem: Last weekend, two Houston men took the family Tesla S out for a spin, failed to turn in a cul-de-sac, sped into some woods, and crashed into a tree. No one was at the wheel at the time, police said, and both men were killed. Confusing the situation, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Autopilot wasn’t engaged at the time.

It’s the latest of 24 Tesla crashes under investigation by the NHTSA, the U.S. auto safety agency, many involving Autopilot. At the cusp of a new era for electric vehicles, in which EVs seem…


Consumers could leave gasoline models unsold, and wait for electrics

The Rivian R1T, one of the most-discussed coming electric pickups. Photo: Courtesy Rivian.

In an announcement yesterday, BMW said it will introduce an electric vehicle with a solid-state battery by 2030. The same day, Toyota announced that it’s creating a new EV called the “bz4x,” to be offered for sale the middle of next year, not to mention an electric pickup not long after.

For a year, GM has crowed that it will put 30 EV models on the road by 2025. VW has been just as loud, boasting that it is installing 3,500 EV charging points in the U.S., deploying 30 EV models under its Audi brand alone by 2025, and aiming…


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. …

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