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

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  161 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
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-independ ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Hill and Wang
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David Bruns
Aug 16, 2012 David Bruns rated it really liked it
Fletcher provides a good overview of the history of the battery, the intellectual landscape around the technology and some useful "I was there" reporting on lithium mining. I was hoping for more science and economics and less tit-for-tat about the intellectual property games that went on behind the scenes.

The most powerful piece of the book is the last few pages where Fletcher describes the successful roll-outs of the Volt and Leaf. Then he tries to bring it all back home by channeling Secty of
Michael Connolly
Apr 03, 2013 Michael Connolly rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, engineering
Each cell in a battery has a negative electrode (anode) and a positive electrode (cathode) separated by a liquid or solid called the electrolyte. A group of one or more cells connected together is called a battery. Originally, batteries were not rechargeable, but some more recent batteries are rechargeable: the nickel cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Two problems with these batteries are: (a) they lose energy capacity when not fully run down prior to charging, and (b) they lo
Sep 18, 2011 Austin rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Starts with the invention of the battery and the hundreds of different chemicals that have been investigated as constituents and proceeds through the many iterations of the electric car that have (so far) failed. Fletcher then explains why lithium batteries are superior to prior versions and looks into the current research into the batteries that may one day be able to compete with the convenience of gas-powered engines. He finishes the book with a description of the current status of the lithiu ...more
Nov 27, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: energy, batteries
A solid book, the author visited with battery manufacturers, car companies, research labs and traveled to Bolivia and Chile to research this book. It left me optomistic regarding the future of electric vehicles and our ability to overcome the technical hurdles.
Ed Wagemann
Jun 17, 2011 Ed Wagemann rated it really liked it
Nothing symbolizes the greatness of America more than the road trip. When I was a kid in the 1970s I went on road trips family style (disfunctional family style at least) each summer. My brother and I would travel cross country to Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri either with our biological father in his Econoline van or with my step-father and mother in our Dodge Ramcharger. Each trip was an adventure, stops to go swimming, tubeing, bicycling, camping, fishing, to see bal ...more
Oct 21, 2016 Art marked it as to-read
- found on shelf want to read
Aug 27, 2015 Robert rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading Seth Fletcher’s 2011 book, Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy. His narrative addresses the rise of the lithium-ion battery and how it made cars like the Tesla Roadster, Chevrolet Volt, and Nissan Leaf possible. Lithium-ion batteries are three-times more energetic and about half the weight of lead-acid batteries. By 2010, nearly every major car manufacturer announced some level of commitment to electrically-powered automobiles, even Gen ...more
Sep 15, 2016 Unmesh rated it liked it
The battery industry and its impact on automobiles is increasing at a pace never seen before partly because of the depleting fossil fuels and partly because of environmental concerns. The book is a collection of facts from this industry across the world. The placements of facts could be more accurate for a smooth reading experience. Also the author seems very concerned about the modicum role of the US of A in this technology and the possible dominance of China. A good read with all the knowledge ...more
Sep 29, 2011 Perpetualstudent rated it really liked it
Seth Fletcher has put together a very readable history of the Lithium battery from early history, to inclusion in cell phones and laptops, and now the growing electric vehicle market. Batteries have made significant progress in the last few years. Do you remember how heavy cell phones used to be? Much of the weight back then was in the battery. He also covers the mining and exploration for new lithium reserves and the future of battery technology. It is estimated that the theoretical maximum for ...more
Butch Byers
Jul 07, 2013 Butch Byers rated it it was amazing
great overview of (potentially) the next big wave of transport fleet power solutions (basically, Li ion batteries). Fascinating overview of how the battery technology started, how companies like XOM support, and then drop their support, as the greater economy expands and contracts. Really good sequence on how Li is mined, the race to develop, and So America politics (Bolivia vs Chile) which basically we northerners know nothing about. I can only hope that battery technology continues to develop ...more
Jordan Eshelman
Jan 16, 2013 Jordan Eshelman rated it it was amazing
Hugely entertaining. I am a science need and a car buff and this really was an eye opening book. It was very dense and I will have to probably read it again in order to fully comprehend all the finer points but I enjoyed this very informational book on a very important topic. Wow. I guess I am pretty much becoming my father. I am 1) reading for fun 2) books that are nonfiction 3) about "widely important" topics.
Hyrum Wright
Oct 17, 2012 Hyrum Wright rated it liked it
An interesting and timely read about the electric vehicle industry. While the author covers all his bases, it at times feels like something of a travelogue. Plus, in a swift moving industry, the information is swiftly out-of-date (one of the battery companies profiled in the book recently missed debt servicing payments and is no longer the high flyer profiled). But as an introduction to the issues, politics and technology surrounding electric vehicles, the book works.
It's incredible that 100 years ago electric vehicles were a familiar sight on American roads, but now they're a novelty hamstrung by politics, entrenched energy interests, and multiple battery standards. With the gradual re-electrification of the automobile all but inevitable, this timely & articulate book demystifies the electric car as well as the key enabling role that lithium plays in its adoption. I'm glad I tracked this book down after I saw someone reading it on an airplane.
Aug 05, 2012 Raveen rated it really liked it
this is an amazing book, has complete information on the lithium battery market, from where it started to where its going, the politics involved, it casualties, the young turks and chemistry, a lot of chemistry, not the boring kind, you will love it.

Can you connect Pepsi 7'Up beverage with Chevy Volt, read this book to find out.
Phil Lawless
Feb 04, 2016 Phil Lawless added it
Shelves: science
This turned out to be a really interesting book, teaching me a whole lot about electric cars and their batteries. One of the concepts that I had never heard about was to assemble high potency batteries in their discharged state to minimize reactions with the environment. I'm looking forward to an electric car some day.
Nov 17, 2014 Peter rated it liked it
A thorough explanation of why lithium batteries are important and what macro effects that will have on economies around the world, but the focus on the GM Volt comes off as brainwashed. Why so much discussion of a mediocre series hybrid and so little of pure electric cars?
Jan 08, 2016 Ellee rated it really liked it
A good read for anyone interested in the energy industry. The narrative approach to the industry of batteries, electric cars, and the sustainable energy initiative makes the book engaging and interesting.
Jenny Brown
Aug 05, 2012 Jenny Brown rated it it was amazing
An excellent review of the way that lithium battery technology has developed over the past decades and what yet needs to be done to make electric cars a truly viable alternative to those that run on gasoline.
Mike Bechtel
Jul 20, 2013 Mike Bechtel rated it liked it
A nice understanding of the "why" and "why now" behind the recent mobile device and upcoming electric car eras.
Jun 04, 2016 Yazin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dated, but still interesting

Good review of battery technology (specifically in the field of electric cars) up to 2012. Interesting background on the subject for the uninitiated
J Scott Shipman
The beginning/middle are a good history of battery tech, though the author's politics take away from the end. Recommended with reservation; if I knew of another title, I'd read.
Brian Morin
Sep 25, 2011 Brian Morin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good description of the last several years and the changes that are happening in our energy landscape.
Jan 14, 2014 Jay rated it really liked it
Shelves: reason
Very good book explaining where the lithium battery currently is in development, what its possible future is, and how that impacts our economy as a whole going forward.
Susan rated it really liked it
Jun 29, 2011
Christopher Corrar
Christopher Corrar rated it liked it
Sep 26, 2012
Gary Limjuco
Gary Limjuco rated it liked it
Jan 11, 2013
Patrick Lamb
Patrick Lamb rated it really liked it
Jun 28, 2012
Kurt Rhee
Kurt Rhee rated it liked it
Oct 20, 2014
Joe rated it really liked it
Dec 25, 2015
Terren Peterson
Terren Peterson rated it it was amazing
Oct 30, 2011
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Seth Fletcher is a senior editor at Popular Science magazine. His writing has also appeared in Men's Journal, Outside, Salon, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn."
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“By 1900, electric delivery wagons, trucks, buses, ambulances, and taxis were roaming city streets across the country.” 0 likes
“gas-powered cars offered something that electric cars couldn’t—decent driving range, extendable within minutes with a tin of gasoline from the general store.” 0 likes
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