Google the phrase “electric cars” and you will find results that include “Gas is in the past!” and “Top 10 US Cities for Electric Cars.” While electric cars are becoming more common, there is still the problem of powering them.
In an interview with APM’s Marketplace, author Steve Levine discussed his new book “The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World.”
Levine writes of the international race to find the next super battery to run electric cars, cut emissions and reap the economic benefits. Many of the key players in the pursuit of this super battery include Japan, South Korea, China, and the United States.
Most electric cars use lithium-ion batteries. The US Department of Energy reports that lithium-ion batteries are also used in most portable consumer electronics such as cell phones and laptops because of their high energy per unit mass relative to other electrical energy storage systems.
According to Levine, while the U.S. seems to be trailing Japan and South Korea in the battery race, that doesn't mean they are out of the race. The U.S. has a long legacy of battery innovation. In the midst of the energy crisis of the 1970s, drivers waited in line for hours to get gas. During this time, Stanley Whittingham invented the first rechargeable lithium-ion battery while working for Exxon. Professor Whittingham is still at the forefront of the movement to design the next generation of lithium-ion batteries.
However, as the path to innovation continues, Tesla founder, Elon Musk believes his company can just take the standard lithium-ion technology “off the shelf” and it will suit the electric carmaker just fine.
"The next thing he has in store is a battle with GM," Levin says. "Both of them say in the year 2018 they're going to have $35,000 cars that are going to go 200 miles on a single charge."
As new batteries take off, and with them more electric cars, a lot of oil can be taken off the market. Levine believes there will be a shake up of countries around the world, as the impact of the new power technology will drive the price of oil down. He believes that in the next five to eight years, as battery technology improves, we will see a real shake up in world economies as the power of the electric grid increases.
A new age in batteries will bring a new age in electric cars with a prospective economic boom for the countries that are players in this contest.
Click here to read more of the Marketplace interview with Steve Levine.