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

Lithium Battery

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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…


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…


They will battle VW, GM and Toyota to conquer the lithium metal anode

BMW’s iNext concept electric car. Photo: Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty

For seven months, lithium-metal darling QuantumScape has enjoyed an often-fanatical following as the front-runner in the attempt to commercialize next-generation electric vehicle batteries. Now, though, its arch enemy, Denver-based Solid Power, has unexpectedly emerged with a big, $130 million investment led by Ford and BMW on the promise of an industrial-size scaleup of its technology next year.

Which is to say: It’s a race.

Only a little over four months ago, Solid Power announced that it had produced a 22-layer pure lithium-metal test cell at a size of 20 amp-hours, an attempt to capture the much higher energy density possible…


Questions are raised about price, including whether it’s important

What if the Tesla Model 3 cost $25,000? Photo: Courtesy Tesla.

For a little over half a year, the battery and electric vehicle communities have been in ferment: Companies that no one thought twice about have gone Spac and are worth hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. New gigafactories have been announced by the week. Legacy automakers have torn up and remade their five-year plans, only to do so again within weeks or months. In total, they have announced hundreds of new EV models.

But no episode amid the general mayhem has generated more whiplash than the discovery this week of the industry’s sudden, wholly unannounced recalculation of the…


$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…


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…

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

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