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

Lithium Battery

In The Mobilist. More on Medium.

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…


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…


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 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…


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? …


Tesla, GM, and QuantumScape have begun divulging more and more data, but one battery maker just made perhaps the biggest reveal of all

Solid Power’s 22-layer, 20Ah all solid-state lithium metal cell compared to the company’s first-generation 10-layer, 2Ah cell
Solid Power’s 22-layer, 20Ah all solid-state lithium metal cell compared to the company’s first-generation 10-layer, 2Ah cell
Solid Power’s 22-layer, 20Ah all solid-state lithium metal cell compared to the company’s first-generation 10-layer, 2Ah cell. Photo: © Solid Power

For the whole of the 140-year history of automotive batteries, researchers and their bosses have tended to secrecy. Even when forced to say something as a requirement of government or private funding, the default has been half-truths, and sometimes less. The main reason for all the hiding has been sincere: Batteries are hard and victories over the physics rare; usually you have nothing great to tell, and when you do, you want to hold it close.

Which explains the surprise in recent weeks as some of the most important actors in advanced batteries have unleashed a torrent of transparency. Not…


QuantumScape has released its first data, and battery scientists are impressed

A lithium ion battery for the VW ID.3
A lithium ion battery for the VW ID.3
Photo: Jan Woitas/picture alliance/Getty Images

A half century ago, Exxon pioneered, then abandoned a blockbuster new battery based on pure metallic lithium, a light element that packed the most energy punch of anything on the market, but also ignited dangerous explosions. Over the subsequent decades, numerous companies and labs tried to resurrect Exxon’s effort but foundered on the same shoal — the propensity of metallic lithium batteries to short-circuit and catch fire.

That long history of failure lies behind the release of data this week by two high-profile companies claiming metallic lithium breakthroughs that could lead to electric vehicles priced well below gasoline-fueled cars. The…


After 10 years in stealth mode, QuantumScape launches an IPO, becoming the first U.S. battery company to go public in a decade

A worker assembles one of Volkswagen’s ID.3 electric cars at their factory in Zwickau, Germany on July 31, 2020.
A worker assembles one of Volkswagen’s ID.3 electric cars at their factory in Zwickau, Germany on July 31, 2020.
A worker assembles one of Volkswagen’s ID.3 electric cars at their factory in Zwickau, Germany, on July 31, 2020. Photo: Jens Schlueter/Stringer/Getty Images

In the early 1970s, decades before the cellphone, the handheld video camera, the laptop, or the modern electric car, scientists figured out that lithium, the lightest metal on the periodic table, could make for a revolutionary battery. Researchers at Exxon, hoping to diversify away from oil, were among those who began a series of experiments to create a lithium battery. But as often as not, they had to call the fire department, because the highly volatile element would sometimes catch fire and blow up the lab.

Even as researchers since then have managed to enable a massive lithium-ion economy of…

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