Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy by Seth Fletcher

Ever since the advent of the electrical age, storage of electricity has been a hard obstacle to cross.  For sure, batteries have been used since the early 1800s, but despite years of development, ones for heavy use, i.e. to drive electic vehicles and for industrial use, have been, well, heavy – cumbersome and unable to hold charges for long enough to make things like the electric car and power storage for solar facilities viable.

The popularity of gasoline powered automobiles quickly passed the electric ones in the early years of the 20th century, mainly on the selling points of extended ranges of mobility and easy access to gasoline.  But as Big Oil has gotten more questionable (just how long will we have petroleum reserves to draw from?), any new ideas on electric storage have been fair game.  Enter the lithium battery, which in certain formats has made our digital age a possibility.  The question is how to use the technology for these smaller batteries for the big needs – such as getting a car beyond a very limited range of miles.

In Bottled Lightning, the author highlights the innovators interested in changing lithium technology into something usable past cell phones and laptops.  He discusses the political ramifications of this key element – how the access to lithium in its raw form may change how the developed world bargains with the countries who now have these resources.  He also takes us through the long tale of the GM Volt, a concept long in development and an attempt by General Motors to save face from their previous excursion into electric car production, the EV1.

Interesting reading for heady times.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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