How Tesla sparked the latest race for bigger, better batteries – by Michael McCullough (Canadian Business Magazine – September 1, 2015)

Battery makers are suddenly finding themselves with an explosion of new markets to service—both big and small

You can be forgiven for thinking Tesla Motors is a car company. Yes, it started out making electric cars, but only because personal transportation is the lowest-hanging fruit in tackling the global energy and emissions problem. In fact, Tesla’s core mission is to make big batteries inexpensive and practical for any number of uses.

Last spring, founder Elon Musk unveiled a new product called Power­wall, a battery pack starting at US$3,000 that’s designed to power your whole home for 10 hours or more. If you have a solar panel on your roof, it will allow you to store the electricity produced during the day and use it in the evening to cook, do the laundry and max out your electronic devices.

Even if you don’t have solar panels, you may live in one of the growing number of jurisdictions where electricity costs rise and fall at different times of the day. You could save money on your utility bill by charging your Powerwall during the wee hours and drawing from it later.

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How a new battery revolution will change your life – by David J. Unger (Christian Science Monitor – August 30, 2015)

A new generation of super cells promises to reshape the future of energy.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.; AND ARGONNE, ILL. — It’s probably safe to say that freshman chemistry rarely ranks among college students’ most memorable courses. An overcrowded lecture hall teems with 18-year-olds with chins propped on palms. Eyelids droop at the mere mention of Planck’s constant or Bohr’s model of hydrogen. Yawns abound.

So when Donald Sadoway began teaching introductory chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge in 1995, he wanted to liven things up. Sure, he still lectured on the properties of atomic arrangements in crystalline and amorphous solids, but he did it an unusual way: He peppered his presentations with chemistry jokes only an MIT undergrad would understand and wove literature and art into the rigid lines and squares of the periodic table.

A lifelong music lover, Dr. Sadoway paired each lecture with a relevant tune. He’d play Handel’s “Water Music” in a lecture on hydrogen bonding and Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” in a class on polymers. For DNA – that famous double-helix spiral – he’d play Hank Ballard’s version of “The Twist.”

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Lithium, the love story – by Antoine Dion Ortega and Pierrick Blin (Corporate – June 16, 2014)

Purmamarca, ARGENTINA – When Tesla Motors revealed in February it would build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant, shares in major lithium producers such as SQM, FMC and Rockwood – all active in South America’s so-called lithium triangle – got a noticeable boost.

Tesla pledged to invest more than $5 billion in its factory, construction of which would begin in 2017 with an eye to producing 500,000 batteries a year. Analysts now expect the Palo Alto, California-based electric carmaker to strike a strategic lithium supply agreement in the near future.

When that deal comes through, it could be huge. Tesla alone might represent an 8 per cent increase in global demand for lithium, and that’s good news for countries in the lithium mining game. Yet it’s unclear to what extent South America’s resource-rich nations will truly benefit from it, and whether the foreseen “white gold rush” will be a sustainable one.

Just a few days before Tesla’s announcement, Bolivian President Evo Morales was dressed in white overalls, carefully examining a battery cell during the inauguration of a pilot manufacturing plant, located within the 10,000 square kilometre salt flats of Uyuni.

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Could lithium become the new oil? – by Vikram Mansharamani (PBS Newshour – October 15, 2015)

Vikram Mansharamani is a lecturer in the Program on Ethics, Politics & Economics at Yale University and a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School.

I recently spoke with a group of Nigerian leaders who were visiting Yale. I expressed to them my confidence in the long-term outlook for oil demand. A booming middle class in the emerging markets, I argued, would consistently demand more fuels. They were engaged throughout my talk and cared about many different topics, but kept returning one.

“OK, but Vikram, what will oil prices be next year?” I answered honestly, “I don’t know.”

Several other questions came up, but then another person asked, “OK, very compelling presentation, thank you. But do you think oil prices will be higher or lower next year than they are today?” Again, I pleaded ignorance.

The process continued, and eventually, everyone was laughing about the persistent focus on oil prices.

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Linamar Corp’s biggest deal yet bets that the cars of the future are aluminum – by Kristine Owram (National Post – October 16, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Canadian auto-parts maker Linamar Corp. is betting that aluminum will continue to replace steel as automakers strive to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, announcing the biggest acquisition in its 50-year history Thursday.

The Guelph, Ont.-based company has made an offer to acquire France’s Montupet SA for $1.16 billion plus debt, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

Montupet makes complex aluminum castings for the global automotive industry with a particular focus on cylinder heads, complementing Linamar’s existing aluminum machining business.

“Aluminum is becoming more and more prevalent in the vehicle,” Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz said in an interview from Paris, where she announced the deal.

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