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Bottled Lightning

Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

The sleek electronic tools that have become so ubiquitous—laptops, iPods, eReaders, and smart phones—are all powered by lithium batteries. Chances are you've got some lithium on your person right now. But aside from powering a mobile twenty first-century lifestyle, the third element on the periodic table may also hold the key to an environmentally sustainable, oil-independent future. From electric cars to a "smart" power grid that can actually store electricity, letting us harness the powers of the sun and the wind and use them when we need them, lithium—a metal half as dense as water, created in the first minutes after the Big Bang and found primarily in some of the most uninhabitable places on earth—is the key to setting us on a path toward a low-carbon energy future. It's also shifting the geopolitical chessboard in profound ways.

In Bottled Lightning, the science reporter Seth Fletcher takes us on a fascinating journey, from the salt flats of Bolivia to the labs of MIT and Stanford, from the turmoil at GM to cutting-edge lithium-ion battery start-ups, introducing us to the key players and ideas in an industry with the power to reshape the world. Lithium is the thread that ties together many key stories of our time: the environmental movement; the American auto industry, staking its revival on the electrification of cars and trucks; the struggle between first-world countries in need of natural resources and the impoverished countries where those resources are found; and the overwhelming popularity of the portable, Internet-connected gadgets that are changing the way we communicate. With nearly limitless possibilities, the promise of lithium offers new hope to a foundering American economy desperately searching for a green-tech boom to revive it.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 21, 2011 – Electric cars are real see the Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt, and hybrids like the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius but the drive to create safe, lightweight, and long-lasting batteries to power them has been anything but smooth. Faced with political, technological, and management obstacles, battery technology still lags. In the mid-1800s Fletcher says, clean, cheap lead-acid batteries were developed that by the early 20th century were preferred for use in automobiles over "unreliable, complicated, loud, and dirty" gasoline-powered cars until it came time to refuel. Thomas Edison tried to invent a safe, longer-duration battery, even experimenting with small amounts of lithium, but then Charles Kettering patented an automatic starter for gas engines, and the battle was lost. Smog and 1970s gas shortages revived interest in electric cars and lithium batteries. But obstacles remain: Bolivia, Chile, and China have less than optimal political leadership and minimal infrastructure to safely mine and process the poisonous ore. More importantly, many technical challenges must be overcome before electric cars and buses become everyday modes of transportation. But Fletcher remains optimistic. He balances science and history with a closeup look at business practices and priorities, providing lucid and thorough coverage of a timely topic.

Customer Reviews

Great Read

Fascinating history on battery development and electric vehicles. The modern day stories of the Volt & Leaf were great also.

Recommended Reading

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history, current state, and future of the electric vehicle. A historical perspective on how some pivotal events in the development of the battery technology have effected the life of the electric vehicle. Very interesting reading.

Good, but already ancient history

As a Tesla Model S owner, I want to know as much as possible about the "secret sauce" brewed in the only area of the Tesla factory we weren't shown on the tour: the lightning in the bottle. This is the best entry-level book I could find on that subject, well written, a nice overview, but with an almost sycophantic attitude toward GM's Volt, and even for its publication date, a mysterious dismissal of Tesla Motors. I wouldn't mind that at all--that fantastic Model S tells me the EV this recent book foresaw as the distant future refutes that dismissal daily--but evidently he didn't bother to spend time on Tesla, so there really isn't much of an insight offered about the recipe for the secret sauce. Frustrated, I ended up doing my own online research, which yielded a much clearer, and brighter, view of the upgrade path for my battery pack. You might want to skip this book, start with Wikipedia, and then dive into the more technical literature on graphene nanoribbons.

Bottled Lightning
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  • $7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Science & Nature
  • Published: May 10, 2011
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings