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

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  210 ratings  ·  36 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, ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Hill and Wang
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Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Bottled Lightning (2011) by Seth Fletcher is a book about the history of batteries and what was happening with batteries in 2011.

Batteries are undoubtedly a critical part of many modern systems including our phones, laptops and for some people their cars. Today in many cities electric scooters also zoom around. Bottled Lightning looks at the history of batteries first and then the rise of Lithium Ion batteries.

The book starts well and the history of batteries is interesting. The development of
David Bruns
Aug 16, 2012 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
Dec 10, 2012 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
Austin Larson
Sep 18, 2011 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 ...more
Jun 27, 2011 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.
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
This was an interesting book, but I was hoping to read less about cars and more about lithium.
Ed Wagemann
Jun 01, 2011 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 ...more
Hamid Yuksel
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this book back in High School. Nearly 8 years later here I am remembering it. I think the book initially caught my interest because of the documentary "who killed the electric car?". The documentary was very eye-opening as it shed light on how bureaucracy, corporate interests, and red tape can hold back human technological advancement. Not to advocate for Ayn Rand, both this book and the doc I mentioned go into detail into personal stories of real people all involved in the modern history ...more
Filiberto Alvarez
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bottled Lightningis a fascinating story on the development of the electric car. The book starts of by talking about the development of the electric car from the begining(its name and while it was a concept) to the latest electric cars. It mainly focuses on one specific part of the electric car, the battery. It focuuses heavaliy on the battery for very long due to being a fundumental and problemental part of the electric car. While talking about the battery it goes very in depth into its history ...more
Ted Daniels
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book covers a lot of bases: The development of electric cars (technical and political), the history of super batteries leading to the current lithium ion technology, the interdependence of the auto and battery industries, and a look into the future of battery development. The book is a quick read, and not overly technical. However, your understanding will be enhanced if you remember some of your high school chemistry.

"Bottled Lightning" was published in 2011, so I need to do some on-line
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very excellent look at how Lithium Ion batteries are poised to change our world and economy. Warning for those of you who don't like equations, it does get a little "sciency" sometimes. Still, a comprehensive look at the battery that will, hopefully save the planet.
Oct 21, 2016 marked it as to-read
- found on shelf want to read
Aug 27, 2015 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 ...more
Sep 14, 2016 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
Jun 20, 2011 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 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
Hyrum Wright
Apr 19, 2012 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.
Phil Lawless
Feb 04, 2016 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.
Jul 21, 2012 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.
Jan 08, 2016 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.
Nov 17, 2014 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?
Jenny Brown
Aug 05, 2012 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.
Thomas McGuire
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly enjoyable, informative, read.
Jan 14, 2014 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.
Paul Karpenko
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great Book!
Mike Bechtel
Jul 20, 2013 rated it liked it
A nice understanding of the "why" and "why now" behind the recent mobile device and upcoming electric car eras.
Jun 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Dispels any myths regarding the “shortage” of lithium.
Jun 04, 2016 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
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.
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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."
“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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