Reason Writers Around Town: Ronald Bailey on Superbatteries and Electric Cars


Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey reviews Seth Fletcher's Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy. As Bailey reports, Bottled Lightning tells the history of batteries over the past 100 years, which is essentially the story of man trying—and failing—to power automobiles, with a recent fruitful detour into electronic gear.

Read all about it here.

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  1. Has anyone thought to just make a car that constantly attracts lightning to use as a power source? I bet you could get pretty good mileage out of 1.21 gigawatts.

    1. That would require 1.21 gigawatts?

      1. Schfuck. I meant to type, “flux capacitor”.

  2. I want a car powered solely by Progressives” smug misdirection. The hand-waving alone should generate gigawatts.

    1. My hybrid runs on own sense of self-satisfaction

      1. sure isn’t running on the fumes of your career

  3. God damn it. Where’s my nuclear powered car?

  4. I know the hype around EEStor hasn’t panned out, but Maxwell Technologies is still scaling up productions of its ultracapacitors–and that isn’t hype at all!…

    They’ve been focusing mostly on bus applications for transportation, I understand, mostly out of cost concerns. It’s a lot easier to justify the price of ultracapacitors within the context of something that costs as much as a bus–and the cost savings versus diesel, whathaveyou, are a lot easier to justify on something like a bus that runs 24/7 too.

    No doubt, government contracts have had a lot to do with Maxwell’s success, particularly the government of China. On the other hand, like that article shows, they are scaling up production, and if the technology makes the most sense in a niche like buses, and that just so happens to be somethings municipal governments tend to operate around the world, then I’m not sure we can point to that as a fundamental flaw that will disappear once the taxpayer dollars dry up either.

    So, anyway, I think there is good news out there for batteries–even beyond what’s currently available in consumer autos. EEStor may have been vaporware for all I know, but ultracapacitors are being put into use–and have been for years! And production is scaling up rather dramatically. If they had scaled to the point where the price came down so the Leaf or the Volt could use ultracapacitors, GM and Nissan, presumably, would have used them…

    Still, the technology is real, and being used, and production is scaling up.

    1. I’d love to see one of those 1.2 kilofarad capacitors arc.

      1. From a good distance away.

        1. I imagine it’s comparable to the danger of a fuel tank bursting into flames.

          1. They have thousands of buses already in use.


            I believe they first started deploying four or five years ago.

            I don’t know how many thousands of buses we need in use to prove their safety, but none of this is theoretical anymore.

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