Electric Cars and a
The lithium-ion battery industry grew exponentially in the early 2000s to power the wireless revolution. Supplying the growing demand for electric vehicles and utility-scale applications will require it to grow even faster.
FACTOID: TESLA LAUNCHED THE MODEL S — THE FIRST-MASS PRODUCED, LONG-RANGE ELECTRIC VEHICLE — IN 2012.
Unlike with consumer electronics, for which the lithium-ion battery served as an enabling technology — making devices more portable, powerful, and long-lasting—electric cars were different. In the case of the automobile, the battery-powered electric car needed to displace an existing technology, the internal combustion engine, that most people found satisfactory on a day-to-day basis.
FACTOID: THE UPFRONT EMISSIONS FROM MANUFACTURING AN ELECTRIC CAR IS 1.5x GREATER THAN A CONVENTIONAL CAR, LARGELY DUE TO THE BATTERY.
Despite China’s head start manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, in 2010, the geography of lithium-ion battery manufacturing was effectively blank. Less than 1 percent of the battery capacity needed by 2030 had been built. That set off a geopolitical scramble, as the United States, Europe, and South American countries sought to gain a toehold in the industry.
FACTOID: SOME ELECTRIC CARS USE BATTERIES THAT REQUIRE 1 LB OF NICKEL FOR EVERY 2 MILES OF RANGE.
In the 2010s, growing demand for electric cars reshuffled the burdens of resource extraction for local communities around the world that were supplying the lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other materials increasingly important to a clean energy future.
What does Charged say about the rise of electric cars? Read the beginning of chapter four below…
Additional sources about lithium-ion batteries, electric cars, and sustainability:
Climate + Community Project, Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining (2023).
Formando Rutas, Our North is the South (2023). Formando Rutas is an educational project about lithium mining in the Atacama Desert.
The Nobel Prize, "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019"
Roberts, "A Primer on Lithium-Ion Batteries," Volts
Argonne National Laboratory, Index of Lithium-ion Battery Research
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence
Castelvecchi, "Electric Cars and Batteries" Nature (2021)
Tesla, 2020 Battery Day
ABC News, "Australian Lithium Miners Benefit from Surge in Electric Vehicle Demand in China" (2021)
Berdichevsky and Yushin, “Future of Energy Storage,” Sila Technologies (2020)
Wikipedia, "Lithium-Ion Battery"
Battery University, "How Does Graphite Work in Li-Ion"