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

4.3 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0809030538
ISBN-10: 0809030535
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809030535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809030538
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,069,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Kim R. Fowler on June 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is a readable monograph - sort of like an extended essay about the history, current state, and potential future of lithium batteries in electric cars. It fits into the category of books that educate you about a particular subject by providing background facts, details, references, and interviews and then weaving them together into an interesting narrative. So, as a first read, this book seems to be a good book for understanding the concerns about and the future for batteries in electric cars.

To judge the value of a this type of book, the first thing that I do is look at the reference section to see how extensive and diverse are the supporting materials. Mr. Fletcher has 17 pages of references, which is a good basis for a well-supported argument and essay of 215 pages (this number excludes counting the pages for the references, bibliography, and index). The one downside is that the references are not noted within the body of the text; each reference lists the page that it supports, which makes the reading easier but the checking of the facts, if you really want to do so, a bit more cumbersome.

The next thing that I check is the index. This book has 18 pages of index - indicating a good, thorough effort. The bibliography appears reasonable in length, breadth, and historical depth, as well.

The third criterion for judging such a book is the breadth and depth of the interviews conducted with primary players in a field. The material from interviews is a strength of this book - good, inciseful interviews of people in both the industry and the research arenas.

Finally, I judge a book by how well written and edited the text is. Clearly Mr. Fletcher is a fine author who writes a good narrative that can keep your interest.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Comprehensive, very well-written, and reads fluidly. As the title suggest, the book's focus is on rechargeable battery technologies and how the development of lithium-ion batteries made possible the launch of the first mass market electric cars in more than 100 years. The book scope covers events until around January 2011, right after the market launch of the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf in the United States, so it is one of the most updated books on this subject.

Be aware that at some points Mr. Fletcher gets carried away with technical explanations regarding how the different battery technologies work or describing battery chemistry or production processes, and thus, some basic to intermediate knowledge of chemistry and physics comes very handy. Nevertheless, the layman can safely skip these paragraphs without missing the main storyline; you just need to know that there are technologies A, B or C, and chemicals L, K and M.

The book provides a brief historical overview from the discovery of electricity, to the invention of the battery to its widespread use at the beginning of the automobile age, when one third of automobiles were electrically-powered. Here Mr. Fletcher pressed pause and explains in more detail key developments in battery technology, Edison efforts for a better battery and his discovery of the potential of lithium, until the electric car demise due to the invention of the electric self-starter and widespread adoption of the internal combustion engine. A few chapters ahead, he completes the history of the evolution of the electric car and the barriers that hindered its success (not surprisingly most are the same as today).
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a fantastic historical summary of what has been occurring in battery technologies and the current era of EVs. I work in EV infrastructure and renewable energy and have a very pragmatic engineer's opinion on the technological value of these systems. Fletcher does a great job articulating where battery technologies have come from, where they are, and where they need to go to make EVs a practical and cost effective reality. He also makes a compelling argument of why we need to do it. His balanced approach of addressing the issues, while lacing it within interesting true-life stories of his experiences researching these technologies, makes for an easy read. I have more fingers than books I've read in one sitting - and Fletcher's Bottled Lightning is one of them.

If you want to understand the technological merits of the different battery technologies and EVs - while making sense of some the various information and disinformation by various interests that gets floated around the web - read his book. He compiled it all for the rest of us - and did so entertainingly.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the subtitle suggests, this is a review of the current state of three different but related topics: electric cars, battery technology and the economics of lithium. The last topic is the unifying and controversial theme: how important is lithium to a greener future, and what are the geopolitics of its supply? The minutiae of recent evolutions in battery science are also explored in some depth. Even after being digested for supposedly popular consumption, though, the balance between edification and simplification sometimes disappoints on both sides. If you have an interest in such matters, however, it's certainly covered here.

As for the synopsis on the state of electric cars, which one would expect to be the most exciting part of the story, I found the focus to be misplaced. After a tantalizingly brief mention of the pioneering efforts of Tesla Motors, and admitting that Japanese firms have a huge technological lead, the author chooses to concentrate instead on GM's efforts to produce the Volt. Perhaps this was meant to help sell this book to an American market, but for those looking for a concise overview of the science behind an issue of global concern, the narrative seems held hostage to concerns for the resurrection of the US auto industry.

Although he writes in an engaging style, the author also has a habit of inserting catty personal comments into descriptions of his sources that I found petty and distracting.

If you are interested in a concise update on the battery technology that may finally enable electric cars to achieve mass market success, this may turn your crank, but as a general overview of the state of the electric car, it sputters.
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