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The Powerhouse

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The Powerhouse

Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Follow the global hunt for the battery technology that will launch the age of electric vehicles.

Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening
  • Background


In reporter Steve LeVine’s account of the nascent electric-vehicle industry, the perfect battery is as sought after as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The invention of a car battery that provides close to gasoline’s energy performance could spark an economic boom. With such a battery, electric vehicles could – by 2030 – grow into an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Scientists, governments and entrepreneurs worldwide are feverishly mixing new alloys, distributing grants and raising venture capital in a race to be the first with a viable battery that can dominate the electric-car market. LeVine follows the day-to-day struggles of researchers at America’s Argonne National Laboratory as they contend with the market, political pressures, espionage and the laws of physics. In economical prose, LeVine offers a fast-paced story with echoes of a political thriller – despite its dizzying hops across continents and an ambiguous chronology. getAbstract recommends this well-researched analysis to marketers, public officials, energy industry insiders and entrepreneurs navigating developing technology.


The Pursuit of Power

Sometime during the first decade of the 21st century, governments, businesses and researchers around the globe realized that the world needed a certain kind of new battery. The ideal battery would require a technological breakthrough that would enable it to provide electric vehicles with power comparable to that generated by a gasoline-fueled internal-combustion engine. The pursuit of this technology turned into an international race. Whoever first reached the goal could rule the electric-vehicle battery market, which could become a $100 billion-a-year industry by 2030.

The United States was in a poor position at the beginning of the race. Japan and South Korea had the battery manufacturing capacity to test new designs. The Chinese government had the power to order companies to bring electric cars to market within a few years. America had one advantage: the nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) battery, which was the invention of scientists at the US-based Argonne National Laboratory. The NMC was the power source for the new Chevrolet Volt, an electric-gasoline hybrid that could travel 40 miles on one charge. Americans were working on ...

About the Author

Steve LeVine covers energy and technology issues for Quartz. He is a Future Tense fellow at the New American Federation and teaches at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

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