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


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A new paper has claimed up to a 25% capacity loss

Lithium in its pure extracted state in evaporation ponds at Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia. Photo: Pablo Cozzaglio/AFP/Getty

For years, they were the Don Quixotes of the battery world — tinkerers in pure lithium metal romantically seeking to install them in batteries, only to find them catching fire and the answers they thought would fix them a mirage. Then, over the last six months, these People of La Mancha became the toast of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, winning high-dollar valuations in SPAC deals and courted by virtually every major automaker in the world.

Now, a new paper published Monday at Nature Energy has triggered a heated debate in the battery community, asserting that in certain cases, lithium-metal…

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…

Cuberg says it’s all in how you make your electrolyte

A rendering of Northvolt’s planned Swedish battery factory. Photo courtesy of Northvolt

Forecasts of a revolution in batteries — ushering in much cheaper electric vehicles with far greater range — have rested largely on the promise of a coming technological breakthrough: an electrode made of pure lithium metal, delivering much more energy than current lithium-ion. The prognostications have even foreshadowed what that leap would look like: Since lithium is exceedingly reactive and can explode when in contact with liquid, the much-sought battery would feature a “solid-state” separator that allows ions to shuttle quickly while preventing the two electrodes from shorting out.

But two big announcements this week suggest that the decadeslong quest…

Solid state showdown, manufacturing bloodbath, and charging on the go

Photo: John Lamparski/Getty

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

Battery transparency evangelism: As I wrote last month, QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh, until recently one of the most secretive figures in batteries, has of late been jarringly different — an evangelizing convert to data openness. This week, Singh is out with a new challenge to rivals — what he calls a side-by-side comparison of the major commercial solid state batteries.

The chart, posted on QuantumScape’s website, is a barely veiled shot over the bow of its rivals. But, in the battery community, some fired back. The chart, they…

A vigilance against people making claims with ‘zero data’

QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh. Photo: Courtesy QuantumScape

For a decade, QuantumScape toiled away in secrecy in a gigantic space on the southern edge of Silicon Valley. But secrecy did not suggest obscurity: With its unusually rich $150 million in venture funding, QuantumScape had the rapt attention of the battery community. Just what was this company and its 100 or so engineers doing? Still, that building in San Jose, California remained a gargantuan black hole out of which no information seeped. In November 2015, five years after the company’s launch, I pinged CEO Jagdeep Singh asking if he had anything to say. …

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…

Apple car, the silicon race, and a billion years of lithium

Photo: Corbis/Getty

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

What’s with Apple: By far the most anticipated event in electric vehicles today is the Apple Car, expected to be the truest competitor to market leader Tesla. But, in a hugely egotistical auto industry, who will agree to swallow its pride and produce the Apple-branded EV? First, the reporting was that it would be South Korea’s Hyundai until that talk was squelched. Then it was Japan’s Nissan, but that also turned out not to be true.

In an email exchange, Mobilist reader Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush…

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…

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