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


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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…

Blood feud, gigafactory chronology, useless batteries and new podcast

Photo: MJ Kim/Getty

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

The South Korean battery blood feud: This week, I wrote about the coming deadline Saturday for President Biden to decide whether to side with LG Chem and stop SK Innovation from supplying lithium-ion batteries from a new plant in Georgia. The batteries would be for Ford’s coming electric F-150 pickup and VW’s SUV crossover ID.4. The International Trade Commission ruled that SKI stole trade secrets from LG in order to invent its battery, a position that SKI vehemently denies…

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…

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. …

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…

Automakers and governments see a strategic and geopolitical necessity

Super-chargers in Topeka, Kansas. Photo: Mark Reinstein/Corbis/Getty

According to one prevailing view of the future, the combustion-rooted landscape to which we have become accustomed over the last century — gasoline stations always at hand if we need them, grouped in threes and fours on some urban corners — will go the way of the buggy whip. Instead, when people are in electric vehicles and running low on juice, this outlook predicts, they won’t scan the horizon for a service station, but will already have charged up at home or work. …

A multifront race in batteries, plants, and to be #2 behind Tesla

Tesla Battery Day, Sept. 22, 2020, Musk, right, with battery head Drew Baglino. Photo: Tesla

In six months, the world of automobiles has raced decades ahead: From a mere aspiration, the mass-market electric vehicle is at once a very real object planned for deployment in three or four years by nearly every automaker on the planet. Batteries thought to be fanciful are ready to be scaled up and put into those vehicles. And logistics experts who typically spend years crafting intricate supply lines for global trade are scrambling to organize everything from mines, to parts-makers, factories, and fast-charging stations — all in the next few years.

As bookends, this whirlwind period began and ended with…

Super-duper fast-charging, battery days, apartment dwelling

Photo: Ian Gavan/Getty/One New Change

Faster than superfast: Fast-charging is the biggest thing in batteries and electric vehicles at the moment. The subject was central to Volkswagen’s Power Day on Monday, and, along with cost parity with combustion, is the singular must-have if ordinary motorists are to seriously consider buying an EV. So it is that, in a new paper in Nature Energy, a group of 10 researchers at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, and Brown disclose a “faster than superfast” battery, as CMU’s Venkat Viswanathan, one of the authors, puts it.

The proof of concept, led by MIT’s Yet-Ming Chiang, combines a lithium metal…

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…

In one scenario, SK Innovation would pay big compensation to LG

The VW ID.4, which the SK battery is slated to power. Photo: Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Administrative judges in Washington, D.C., were flabbergasted last month when they studied an arcane trade secrets case. Amid high stakes — blood rivalry between two of the leading companies in one of the world’s most important new technologies — South Korea’s SK Innovation had concealed reams of evidence when accused of stealing the know-how behind its newest battery. Meanwhile, SK workers were irretrievably destroying pertinent files, emails, and other documents. By the time their existence was known, the documents were gone.

Now, in a public version of its decision released yesterday, the International Trade Commission (ITC) paints a damning portrait…

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