The cutthroat battery war between the U.S., China, and Europe is all about emulating the unsung king of silicon chips

Photo: David Parker/Science Photo Library/Getty

When revolution swallowed China in 1949, the United States admitted a few thousand people who took flight. Among them was an aspiring 18-year-old writer named Zhang Zhongmou, who, leaving his parents behind, landed in Boston, where he had an uncle. Four years later, Zhang graduated from MIT, though not with a writing pedigree. He instead left the school with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering — and a new name: Morris Chang.

So would begin a meteoric rise: Chang was hired by Texas Instruments, where, displaying an unusual flair with transistors, he was put on a fast track. As…

The trick will be keeping all the innards cool

A new fast-charging station at JFK Airport in New York. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty

Some time, years in the future, our transportation mindsets may change — we may forget all about what we now regard as the convenient corner gasoline station, and the reliably quick fill-up while rushing to an appointment or dropping off the kids. Instead, most of us will have new muscle memory and simply plug in our electric vehicle as soon as we get home, so it’s all charged up in the morning. If we happen to occasionally need added juice — say, for the random time we are on a long holiday — charging stations will be concentrated at intervals…

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

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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…

Toyota bets that many people will want only partial electrification

Concept version of Toyota’s fully electric bZ4X, to be out by 2025. Photo: Courtesy Toyota.

Electric vehicles are still too expensive to turn the eye of many mainstream Americans, but the atmosphere around gasoline propulsion has turned suddenly funereal: Activist investors and a judge this week inflicted powerful blows against the biggest players in Big Oil. And one of the last stubborn combustion holdouts — Ford — waved the white flag and said it is going electric.

The blood in the street has Wall Street’s approval: As recently as a week ago, Ford seemed to be still clinging to combustion, but on Wednesday, CEO Jim Farley finally said clearly that the company is breaking up…

Solid Power pivot, Ford wakes up, Cyber threat

Photo: Constance Bannister/Getty

Pivot at Solid Power? In December, Solid Power, the Denver-based solid-state battery startup, announced a big achievement — it had scaled up its pure lithium-metal anodes to an industry-standard, 20-amp-hours, an impressive 22-layer cell with specific energy density of a whopping 330 watt-hours per kilogram. It had a couple of serious flaws — performance plunged during fast-charging and at room temperature. But the company said it was working on that, and expected better performance this year. At the time, industry darling QuantumScape had produced only a single-layer cell. …

Colonial and Solar Winds were dress rehearsals for this age of road mayhem

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty

If American motorists behave like typical consumers, they will notice a steep drop in the price of electric vehicles around the middle of the decade, and begin to snap them up. And with that, they will crack open a vast new vulnerability to the world’s cyber criminals, Machiavellian spymasters, malicious actors, and the odd benign voyeur.

A decade and a half into the new age of cyber warfare, the electronic equivalent of hostile forces are crawling through the guts of the most critical computers on the planet, in core companies, energy infrastructure, and government agencies from the U.S. to China…

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…

Electric pickups, Kia in NY, road trip

Kia’s coming-out on Times Square last night for the debut of its first purpose-made electric, the EV6. Courtesy: Kia

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

‘This sucker’s quick’: Ford, maker of the F-150 pickup, the most popular vehicle of any kind for the last four decades, is finally unveiling an electric version, called the Lightning. My own impression from years of informal conversation with pickup drivers around the U.S. is that the Lightning — like GM’s electric Hummer, the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian’s R1T — will sell briskly. Yesterday, Ford got much attention for the F-150 when President Biden, promoting his $174 billion plan to build out an American EV and battery industry…

Under the radar, Willett Kempton is one of the most-cited researchers in EVs

Willett Kempton, third from the right, with electrical engineers on his team at the University of Delaware. Photo: Courtesy Willett Kempton.

Until the middle of the decade, electric vehicles will cost more on average than combustion. So to attract buyers beyond first-movers, automakers have resorted to sales gimmicks. Among them has been this notional argument: If you have the right technology, you can earn extra dollars by selling the charge in your battery back to the grid. This idea, which goes by the nickname vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, is often touted by EV evangelists who cleverly point out that people’s cars just sit around in driveways and parking lots most of the time.

The result has not been a stampede to showrooms…

Steve LeVine

Editor at Large, Medium, covering the turbulence all around us, electric vehicles, batteries, social trends. Writing The Mobilist. Ex-Axios, Quartz, WSJ, NYT.

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