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


In The Mobilist. More on Medium.

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…

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…

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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