From Publishers Weekly
Electric cars are real—see the Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt, and hybrids like the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius—but the drive to create safe, lightweight, and long-lasting batteries to power them has been anything but smooth. Faced with political, technological, and management obstacles, battery technology still lags. In the mid-1800s Fletcher says, clean, cheap lead-acid batteries were developed that by the early 20th century were preferred for use in automobiles over "unreliable, complicated, loud, and dirty" gasoline-powered cars—until it came time to refuel. Thomas Edison tried to invent a safe, longer-duration battery, even experimenting with small amounts of lithium, but then Charles Kettering patented an automatic starter for gas engines, and the battle was lost. Smog and 1970s gas shortages revived interest in electric cars—and lithium batteries. But obstacles remain: Bolivia, Chile, and China have less than optimal political leadership and minimal infrastructure to safely mine and process the poisonous ore. More importantly, many technical challenges must be overcome before electric cars and buses become everyday modes of transportation. But Fletcher remains optimistic. He balances science and history with a closeup look at business practices and priorities, providing lucid and thorough coverage of a timely topic. (May)
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“Fletcher makes a good case that the electric-car trend may soon be able to shed its dubious reputation as a public-private hybrid and roll under its own power.” —Ronald Bailey, The Wall Street Journal
“There’s never a dull page as Mr. Fletcher slaloms through the science, the business deals and the political pitfalls.” —Don Sherman, The New York Times
“Bottled Lightning is a gripping introduction to this sophisticated technology and its place in our society.” —Bruno Scrosati, Nature
“A well-written, smart and—when Fletcher gets rolling in the last quarter of the book—rollicking story.”—Steve LeVine, Foreign Policy
“[Fletcher] follows lithium from the South American salt flats where most lithium minerals are mined to the labs of General Motors, tracing its journey from obscure metal to one of the most sought-after resources on earth—and perhaps the centerpiece of the automotive future.” —Discover
“Fletcher captivatingly explains just how significant lithium may become in satisfying the industrial world’s insatiable energy needs and, ultimately, reducing its dependence on oil . . . An informative and timely read.” —Carl Hays, Booklist
“[Fletcher] provides an entertaining, surprisingly eventful history of human efforts to harness energy in the form of battery power . . . A fine, readable work of popular science.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Balances science and history with a closeup look at business practices and priorities, providing lucid and thorough coverage of a timely topic.” —Publishers Weekly
“Bottled Lightning jumpstarts the electric-car story with one of the key players of the story—batteries—and does it brilliantly. The more you know, the more you’re ready.” —Chris Paine, director, Revenge of the Electric Car and Who Killed the Electric Car?
“To move from our present energy predicament the most vexing challenge is transportation—in short, to find a convenient, safe, portable energy source that packs as much energy per kilogram as does gasoline. Electric batteries have tantalized car builders since the 19th century, but still they seem to be just down the road a bit. In Bottled Lightning, Seth Fletcher enlists chemists, geologists, business investors, and automotive engineers to tell an engrossing and important story of how we got to where we are. This book can help us get to where we need to go.” —Rush Holt, U.S. House of Representatives
“An engaging read detailing the intrigue surrounding the birth and development of modern lithium-ion batteries. Fletcher intersperses the story of the science, business and politics of batteries with colorful quotes from some of the eminent personalities in the field.” —Gerbrand Ceder, professor of materials science and engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology