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

Electric Vehicles

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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…

The company promises 12-minute charging everywhere

With VW’s Dustin Krause, right, trying out the VW ID.4 electric SUV. Photo: Alisha LeVine

Boring old batteries have rarely had it so good. A good two centuries after their invention, they are sought-after with the same fraught urgency of the prospectors who hunted oil in the middle-late tailfin decades of the last century. The latest to make this bald determination plain is Volkswagen, which is throwing everything at an electric coming-out party meant to demonstrate its tech-on-wheels bona fides. Yesterday, the German company held an almost two-hour international webcast to tout its quest to master battery parts rarely earning such attention, such as high-manganese cathodes and lithium-metal anodes. Its executives summoned a global press…

Is it only coincidence? EV and battery-makers are all heading towards the same basic strategy

The BMW concept electric i8 at a 2013 auto show. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint/Getty Images

If all goes according to plan, Gene Berdichevsky’s advanced batteries will be in electric BMWs and Daimlers in 2025, providing at least a 20% jump in energy density. With that juice, their EVs may cost substantially less, go further on each battery charge, or a little of both. To get there, Berdichevsky’s company, Sila Nanotechnologies, has just raised $590 million, with plans to build a battery plant with triple the capacity of Elon Musk’s iconic Nevada Gigafactory, and produce the first commercial silicon anode, an elusive leap sought for decades by researchers around the world.

But, in a much-overlooked convergence…

Dendrites, demand signal, and a battery report

Photo: Bicanski/Creative Commons

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

The world of lithium dendrites: There was much chatter on Twitter, Slack, and LinkedIn around yesterday’s story on QuantumScape’s 10-year quest to produce a working solid separator for a lithium-metal electric vehicle (EV) battery. But on Twitter, Mobilist reader Jordi Sastre, a PhD researcher at Empa/ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, voiced a primary ask of QuantumScape: “I understand that they want to keep their ‘magic tricks’ secret, but I would love to see those results published in a scientific journal at some point.”

Waiting for the EV signal: As…

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…

But Ford is going the other way, gambling that EV demand will come late

GM says its Ultium battery will ultimately be powered by a silicon or lithium metal anode. Photo courtesy of GM

As the auto industry undergoes a technological revolution, we have watched two distinct strategies unfold in the United States. GM has positioned itself with the most aggressive developers of electric vehicles (EVs) on the planet. But, with combustion still dominating the road by far, Ford seems to have decided that, if Americans do go electric, it will be gradual and take place over decades.

Both approaches are huge risks. If GM is wrong and Americans cling to gasoline-propelled vehicles, it will have seriously wrong-footed itself and squandered at least $27 billion — a full half of its five-year capital budget…

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…

At least one industry of the future will produce middle-class jobs that don’t require a college degree

Marshawn Porter is an EV charging station technician and trainer at ChargerHelp. Photo: Courtesy ChargerHelp

Techno-optimists tell us not to fear the age of robots and automation — that new jobs will replace those that are wiped out. Such talk has tended to ring hollow. What sort of jobs do the techno-optimists have in mind? Some folks have drawn up lists of possible “jobs of the future,” but are they to be believed?

Last week, I came across a genuinely new occupation: electric vehicle charging station technician. It’s a $39 per hour job, or $80,000 per year full-time, and requires just a week of training to know the basics, with no college necessary, according to…

It’s standard economics — a product’s price usually rises to the level of its closest rival

Electric car charging station sign
Electric car charging station sign
Photo: Karol Serewis/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

In his confirmation hearing yesterday, Pete Buttigieg, the nominee to be transportation secretary, reiterated a promise that President Joe Biden made again and again on the campaign trail: The administration will seek funding to build a half-million electric vehicle (EV) chargers by 2030.

But if forecasts for EV demand are borne out, the U.S. will need a lot more charging points. In a report earlier this month, McKinsey puts the required number at five to nine million by 2025 and double or triple those figures by 2030. …

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…

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