Coming soon: Ford vigilantes rescuing Tesla owners

If there’s one thing truck owners love doing, it’s towing other people’s stuck cars out of mud, ditches, and any predicament that might require a tow strap or a winch.

Ford trucks — with the company’s “Built Ford Tough” motto and slew of advertisements about power — are no exception. Now, there’s a way for electric Ford-150 Lightning drivers to help others in need.

On Sunday, one Lightning owner shared a photo — spotted by The Verge — of a new Tesla-compatible charging adapter that Lightning owners can use to charge the competitor’s battery.

“Here you go! Lightning to the rescue. We can help all those poor dead Teslas,” the owner wrote in a Lightning forum.

Har!

North American Battery Supply Chain Emerging

Despite having all of the critical ingredients for lithium-ion batteries — nickel, cobalt, lithium, graphite — Canada doesn’t have any EV cell or component manufacturing; and it has only about 10% of the battery demand of the U.S. Combined with a lack of government support for the battery supply chain, it had seemed that Canada was destined to lose the value-add of its raw materials as they are exported to countries that had invested in battery production…

Despite the promising foundations for Canada to be a cornerstone of the North American battery supply chain, until recently it had appeared that there was a lack of support at the government/policy level to attract the industry. This is no longer the case, in just the last two weeks two cell manufacturers have been enticed to set up shop in Canada, with plans to build gigawatt-hour scale cell manufacturing facilities in the country.

Once a country has cell manufacturing capacity, the rest of the component manufacturing industry tends to follow as suppliers move close to their customers. So, Canada is now on course to create a strong domestic battery supply chain…

As EV growth continues in North America, a new supply chain super-hub is growing to challenge the dominance of China, and it is quickly catching up with the growing industry in Europe.

Since the GOUSA is the earliest, potentially-growing EV market, we may wake up some morning and learn the folks smart enough to bankroll electric cars and trucks have decided it’s worthwhile playing in every portion of this 21st Century marketplace.

Battery advances could double electric car mileage and power

❝ Electric car batteries could soon ditch the liquid electrolyte chemicals of yesteryear for a technology that’s more energy dense, more flame resistant, and optimized for the road. Researchers at Michigan Technological University announced the publication of three new articles this week around solid-state batteries — and the research could give a big boost to electric cars.

❝ Solid-state batteries encompass a variety of techniques, but most of them involve dropping the liquids that conduct electricity and interact with the lithium, replacing them with an alternative, solid material…

The research published this week analyzes the way lithium acts in a battery at scales under 500 nanometers, confirming that the material is surprisingly strong, a stepping stone to what engineers agree is essentially redesigning batteries from scratch. The papers were published in the Journal of Materials Research. Erik Herbert, the lead researcher and assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Technological University, tells Inverse these cells could pose an alternative to current electric car batteries.

RTFA. Too brief and I’ll keep my eyes open for more depth to follow.

After 113 years of cranking out engines, Mercedes plant to make batteries, electric motors

❝ The first vehicle in history considered to be an automobile was the Benz Motorwagen of 1885…It was also the first vehicle from an automaker that has been around for the duration of the industry: we know it today as Mercedes-Benz.

In other words, the company has been building cars for 132 years…

And engines for those cars have come from its the German luxury car maker’s Untertürkheim production facility for 113 years.

❝ Now, after more than a century of internal-combustion engines, that historic plant is undergoing a seismic change: it will now build batteries for electric cars as well as engines…

❝ …The Untertürkheim facility will eventually be a major supplier to the Sindelfingen passenger-car plant…There, the brand’s EQ line of electric cars will be built, for which Untertürkheim will supply the battery packs.

The luxury marque has said it will launch 10 electric cars under the EQ badge by the year 2025.

Yes, of course, the market for conventional fossil fuel-fired internal combustion engines will continue for a spell. Even with a diminishing market share it will take some years for consumers to change. Cripes, we still have enclaves of flat-earthers AROUND the globe.

A Battery to Challenge Lithium-Ion

❝ Elon Musk isn’t the only visionary betting that the world will soon be reliant on batteries. Bill Joy, the Silicon Valley guru and Sun Microsystems co-founder, also envisions such dependence. He just thinks alkaline is a smarter way to go than lithium-ion.

❝ Joy and Ionic Materials unveiled a solid-state alkaline battery at the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Energy Innovation Summit in Basalt, Colorado, that he says is safer and cheaper than the industry leader, lithium-ion. The appeal of alkaline: it could cost a tiny fraction of existing battery technologies and could be safer in delicate settings, such as aboard airplanes.

“What people didn’t really realize is that alkaline batteries could be made rechargable,” Joy said in a phone interview Thursday. “I think people had given up.”

The Ionic Materials investor envisions three ultimate applications for the polymer technology: consumer electronics, automotive and the power grid. But Joy acknowledged that the technology isn’t quite ready for prime-time. It has yet to be commercialized, and factories are needed to manufacture it. It could be ready for wider use within five years, he said.

❝ Ionic expects to talk to potential partners about licenses. Global lithium-ion battery demand from electric vehicles is projected to grow from 21 gigawatt-hours in 2016 to 1,300 gigawatt-hours in 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“Even if we grew 400 percent every year for a decade, we couldn’t meet the need” alone, Joy said. “We’re starting from a zero base. We don’t have a factory. We have a revolutionary material.”

Lithium is expensive and scarce in the qualities useful for current lithium-ion battery technology. Alkaline batteries will not face the same kind of challenges – once production is at commercial scale. And believe me – please – regardless of what creeps like Trump or Tillerson or any other fossil fuel pimps might say, the demand coming down the pike in the next 10-20 years for battery tech will have no problem getting investors.

Utilities fighting against rooftop solar hasten their own doom

❝ Several of the big trends in clean electricity depend, in one way or another, on batteries. How fast batteries get better and cheaper will help determine how fast renewable energy grows, how fast fossil fuel power plants get shut down, and how fast the vehicle fleet electrifies.

The consulting firm McKinsey & Company recently released an analysis noting that batteries, like solar panels before them, are getting cheaper much faster than anyone expected — and the consequences for the power sector are going to be immense…

❝ As they get cheaper, batteries make sense for more commercial applications. As new markets for storage grow, demand for batteries increases. As demand increases, economies of scale kick in and batteries get cheaper. Rinse, repeat…

❝ The whole analysis is interesting, but I want to focus in on the way batteries will affect rooftop solar. Across the country, intense battles are being waged as utilities push back against the rapid spread of rooftop solar….Batteries, McKinsey reveals, are going to scramble those battles, making them effectively unwinnable for utilities. The existential crisis they hoped to avoid by slowing rooftop solar is going to slam into them twice as hard once batteries enter the picture…

❝ When a customer installs solar panels, it hurts the utility in two ways.

One, it reduces demand for utility power. Utilities generally don’t want lower demand. To justify building stuff, they need to be able to project higher demand.

Two, the more solar customers reduce their utility bills by generating their own power, the more utilities have to charge other, non-solar customers more, to cover their costs-plus-returns. This pisses the other customers off. And it incentivizes them to install solar themselves!

❝ …Because batteries allow customers to circumvent utilities’ two primary tools for slowing the spread of solar…timing will differ in different markets, but partial grid defection enabled by solar+storage will spread like a virus, starting in sunnier and more expensive areas and spreading from there. And it’s likely to happen within a decade.

❝ …For power utilities, unlike for so many other decrepit American institutions, simply clinging to the status quo is not an option. Rooftop solar can be staved off temporarily with fees and rate tweaks, but as batteries get cheaper, those strategies will stop working. More and customers are going to generate, store, and manage more and more of their own power.

The VOX article opines that the power utilities will have to come up with “other services to provide, other roles to play in the power system of the future”…and offers no suggestions. I can’t think of any either.