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


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Just as with “student driver” signs, pedestrians should know when an AI is at the wheel

When you’re a student driver, you’re a little dangerous behind the wheel. You don’t quite know how to control the vehicle.

Society has a vested interest in helping you learn to drive. So that means letting you take the wheel on city streets.

Risky, but over the years, US states have figured out some reasonable compromises. In places like New York State, driving schools have to outfit their cars with a dual-control brake, so the instructor can stop the car. And — crucially — the cars must sport a “student driver” sign, so everyone who sees it knows: Hey, be…

Not so fast for EVs, LFP’s comeback, tinkering with lithium sulfur

Photo:Norman Smith/Fox/Getty

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

About that fait accompli: Across the world of electric vehicles and batteries, the accepted wisdom is that Americans — and motorists everywhere — are on the cusp of a big switch. En mass, they are about to discard their long-cherished combustion vehicles and adopt EVs. Last week, though, I profiled Toyota chief scientist Gill Pratt, who said, Not So Fast. Pratt said the Japanese carmaker expects motorists to continue to demand all sorts of vehicles, and that Toyota’s plans are to serve these many markets. …

In a much-overlooked shift, Ford, VW and Tesla have rushed to an old chemistry

In 2007, A123 shows a hybrid electric containing its LFP battery to then-President George W. Bush. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Last week, Ford CEO Jim Farley made a big splash with his plans to go digital, mine data, and leverage connectivity. Ford was going to “lead the electric revolution” with an “ion boost” and reduce its battery costs by 40% by the middle of the decade, with more to come. Ford shares ended the week up 9%, and 70% for the year.

Buried in Farley’s presentation was a significant but almost unremarked-upon shift by the company: Some Ford electric vehicles, particularly those meant for construction and other punishing businesses, would spurn tried-and-true battery formulations relying on large proportions of nickel…

Volkswagen’s looks, Tesla’s quality problems, Elon Musk on SNL

Photo: Spencer Grant/Getty

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

A mandate for style: Last week, I wrote about a week’s test drive of Volkswagen’s electric crossover SUV ID.4. The car is mechanically outstanding. Physically, it is meh. Why are this vehicle’s looks so important given the industry’s overall penchant for frumpiness? Because of the very specific interregnum in which it finds itself. …

The Tesla CEO made it even harder for rivals to sell their electric cars

As Wario. Photo: Courtesy SNL

With his aw-shucks, confessional, good-sport, loves-his-mom, boyishly eager-to-please star turn on Saturday Night Live, Tesla’s Elon Musk did what the CEOs of Volkswagen, Ford, GM and everyone else in the electric vehicle race know they cannot: yuk it up as an equal alongside pop culture celebrities, and then hog the conversation on TV, Twitter, and in the tech press for two days afterward.

And with that, Musk accomplished what he must have intended all along as guest host of the iconic comedy show last weekend: Widening the already forbidding moat separating Tesla from the rest of the fast-growing EV pack.

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

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 Mobilist

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

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