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Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy Paperback – May 8, 2012

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Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy + JOLT!: The Impending Dominance Of The Electric Car And Why America Must Take Charge + High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug In the Auto Industry
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; Reprint edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809030640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809030644
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“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

About the Author

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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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I found Seth Fletcher's Bottled Lightning by accident at the local public library, and I'm delighted that I had the opportunity to read it. Fletcher details the history of batteries, right up to the time of the book's publication. Although the focus is on electric vehicles, the history of electrical storage is one of the strongest points of the book. Interestingly, this history includes all sorts of political, business, and legal intrigues going back into the nineteenth century. With this background, it is easy to see why it continues today. Traditional hybrid vehicles receive little coverage in Bottled Lightning (e.g. the Honda Insight is mentioned on just one page), but that is because the vehicular focus is on the Chevrolet Volt. That fact is both a strength and a weakness of the book. I was hoping to learn a little more about other electric vehicles, and some of the more esoteric material about the various lithium-based compounds that have been the basis of lawsuit upon lawsuit got a tad dry; however, overall Bottled Lightning is a great history lesson and sets for the stage for what should be an interesting future for alternative fuel vehicles.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Read this book to gain an understanding of one of the key technologies that is making the transition away from fossil fuels feasible, higher performance batteries. Fletcher is a senior editor for Popular Science magazine, and his story is delivered at that level of scientific sophistication, accurate but accessible. There is reason for optimism here. Lithium based batteries have the capability to store and deliver energy sufficient and at a low enough cost to make practical a range of devices, from smartphones to electric cars, that just weren't possible with earlier battery chemistries just a decade or so ago.
This is good news delivered in an enjoyable book.
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By A reader on June 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who wants to really understand the "electric car" situation in this country needs to read this book. It has the detail in lively prose that really illuminates the very complex nature of the "lithium battery". Having praised this book, I'm sure the author would agree that within a couple of years it will be a work of history. I'm not sure if it covers the Fisker debacle; this technology and the business story are unfolding rapidly. Nevertheless, Seth Fletcher has demonstrated great skill as a popularizer of science, and I'm looking forward to more from him.
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