When lithium-ion pioneers M. Stanley Whittingham, Adam Heller, Michael Thackeray, and of course, John Goodenough were in the initial stages of the technology’s development in the 1970s through the late 1980s, there was no clear idea of just how monumental the lithium-based battery would come to be. Even up to a few years ago, the idea of an electric vehicle or renewable grid dependent on lithium-ion technology seemed like a pipe dream. But now, electric vehicles are making their way to the mainstream and with them comes the commercially-driven race to acquire lithium.

Just look at the rise of Tesla and success of the Nissan LEAF. Not only are these cars speaking to a real concern for environmental protection, they’re also becoming the more affordable option in transportation. For example, the LEAF goes for less than $25,000 and gets more than 80 miles per charge. Plus, electric vehicles can currently run on electricity that’s costing around $0.11 per kWh, which is roughly equivalent to $0.99 per gallon. The last year alone saw a 60 percent spike in the sale of electric vehicles.

“Electric cars are just plain better,” says James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center and newly appointed ECS Secretary. “They’re cheaper to buy up front and they’re cheaper to operate, which years ago, was not the case.”

All things considered, lithium may just be the number one commodity of our time.

But this movement is not specific to the U.S. alone. In Germany – a country dedicated to a renewable future – there is a mandate that all new cars in the country will have to be emission-free by 2030. Similarly in Norway, the government is looking to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2025.

So with the transportation sector heading away from gasoline-powered cars and toward lithium battery-based vehicles globally, what will that do to lithium supplies?


An odd partnership emerged at the Waste EXPO 2016 as truck manufacturer Mack Trucks and Tesla Motors joined forces to introduce an electrified garbage truck based on Mack’s LR model.

The innovative car manufacturer outfitted the truck with a regenerative braking system, which allows the truck to recharge its battery while it operates.

Because of the frequent stopping and start of a garbage truck’s engine, a significant amount of energy is wasted in its day-to-day operation.

“We don’t make vehicles, we just make powertrains,” said Ian Wright, co-founder of Tesla. “There’s a battery pack that you can charge from the grid, and there’s a range-extender generator which can burn fuel, make electricity and keep the battery pack charged so that you don’t run out of range.”

Technology Prospects for Future Mobility

review-paperWith the transportation sectors of industrialized countries on the rise and greenhouse gas emissions at an all-time high, many scientists and engineers are searching for the next-generation of transportation. From hybrid to electric to hydrogen, alternative energy sources for vehicles are being explored and tested throughout the scientific community. Now, many are wondering which technology will win in the race between battery- and hydrogen-powered cars.

A recent open access paper published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society (JES) explores this topic. Authors Hubert A. Gasteiger, Jens-Peter Suchsland, and Oliver Gröger have outlined the technological barriers for next-generation vehicles in “Review—Electromobility: Batteries or Fuel Cells?” This paper comes as part of the recent JES Collection of Invited Battery Review Papers.

The majority of today’s vehicles depend on petroleum-based products in internal combustion engines to operate. The burning of these fuels results in the emission of greenhouse gasses. The majority of these transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions do not come from large modes of transportation such as aircrafts or ships—but are primarily produced by cars, trucks, and SUVs.

In the recently published review, the authors describe the possibilities of extended range electric vehicles, the challenges in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and the potential for new materials to be used in these applications.

Read this open access paper and read the rest of the JES Collection of Invited Battery Review Papers.

Electric Bikes Providing Sustainable Solutions

Tucker1From solar energy to biofuels to hydrogen cars—sustainable solutions have become some of the hottest topics in the scientific community. While much of the focus in alternative forms of transportation has been automobiles (see Tesla and Toyota), ECS member Telpriore Gregory Tucker is shifting his attention in another direction: electric bikes. While Tucker’s bikes hold promise for the future of sustainable transportation, they could also potentially have a much greater impact.

“I don’t just sell electric bikes, I actually provide people with sustainable solutions,” says Tucker, founder of the Southwest Battery Bike Co.

Inspiration through education

The idea behind Tucker’s Phoenix, Arizona-based electric bike company started back in 2010 when he began volunteering with the youth at his church. As a mentoring program began to emerge, Tucker volunteered to addresses topics in STEM education.

“One of my personal goals is helping kids. I’ve been in a lot of programs as a child to help me get to where I am now,” says Tucker. “Giving back is important to me because I see a lot of kids in situations I’ve been in or environments that I’ve come from where a lot of the time, you don’t get that opportunity.”


Apple Expected to Release Car by 2019

Even after the release of the highly anticipated iPhone 6s, Apple remains in the spotlight with the announcement of the company’s potential electric car.

Apple’s entrance into the electric car race puts them up against competitors such as Tesla and Google. The company aims to follow a Tesla path rather than Google—delivering cars directly to the consumers rather than selling the technology to established automobile manufactures. It is expected that the first iCar (presumed name) will hit the market by 2019.

Electric Car Race

These companies are not the only ones interested in green energy alternatives for automobiles. Car manufactures such as Toyota are also directing their attention to this topic. Aside from the release of the Toyota Prius PHV, the company has also allowed for royalty-free use of their fuel cell patents and has recently partnered with ECS to fund new projects in green energy technology.

Technology companies and automobile makers alike are transitioning away from gas-guzzling vehicles to environmentally friendly automobiles, utilizing hydrogen and electric power more frequently. This is in part due to consumer concern regarding climate change and danger of increased greenhouse gas emissions.


First Hybrid-Electric Airplane (Video)


An aircraft with a parallel hybrid engine – the first ever to be able to recharge its batteries in flight – has been successfully tested in the UK, an important early step towards cleaner, low-carbon air travel.
Credit: University of Cambridge

The United Kingdom is taking an important step towards cleaner, low-carbon air travel with the first successfully tested airplane with a parallel hybrid-electric engine. The novel aircraft is the first of its kind due to the ability to recharge its batteries while in flight.

This development comes out of the University of Cambridge in conjunction with Boeing, where they have worked to successfully develop a parallel hybrid-electric propulsion system for an aircraft that will use up to 30 percent less fuel than a comparable plane with a petrol-only engine.

To create the plane, the researches used the same basic principals as in a hybrid car. The aircraft uses a 4-stroke piston engine and an electric motor/generator. When maximum power is required – i.e. during takeoff – the engine and electric motor work together to power the plane. Once cruise height is reached, the motor switches to generator mode to recharge its batteries.


Member Spotlight – Telpriore “Greg” Tucker

Tucker, a six year ECS member, aims to develop future transportation that is sustainable and fun to use.Credit: Arizona State University

Tucker aims to develop transportation that is sustainable and fun to use.
Credit: Arizona State University

Hard-work and perseverance have paid off for The Electrochemical Society’s Telpriore “Greg” Tucker. From chemist, to mentor, to entrepreneur—the Arizona State University doctoral graduate aims to make an impact in renewable energy and transportation.

With his new degree in hand, Tucker plans to revisit his business plans for The Southwest Battery Bike Company, which focuses on developing electric bicycles that can provide a more affordable and greener source of transportation.

“I’ve always had an interest in transportation and how to make it more affordable and sustainable for the public,” Tucker says. “Since my degree focuses on batteries for renewable energy purposes, I began to see a lot of applications from my research. Some of the best jobs can spring from your hobby or projects that you enjoy doing.”


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