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Enlightening, but not electrifying
on July 31, 2011
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.