• Steve H. Hanke
    05/04/2016 - 08:00
    Authored by Steve H. Hanke of The Johns Hopkins University. Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Hanke. A few weeks ago, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) sprang a surprise. It announced that a...

The Great Battery Technology Race

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Sun, 01/16/2011 - 17:52 | 880387 HyperLazy
HyperLazy's picture

Oops, a tad late but load up on Zinc!



Wed, 01/12/2011 - 03:19 | 869449 DutchZeroPrinter
DutchZeroPrinter's picture

Central planning didn't work in USSR and it doesn't work in the US and it won't work in China. The author should read Human Action and rewrite this article.

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 15:58 | 867869 Drag Racer
Drag Racer's picture

this article is complete horseshit.

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 15:29 | 867786 speconomist
speconomist's picture

There's no such thing as clean coal. ;)

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 14:39 | 867604 TBT or not TBT
TBT or not TBT's picture

"Stretching the envelope, scientists might get that to 400 KwH in the near future. But any freshman physics student can tell you that since electrical motors are four times more efficient than internal combustion ones, that is effective parity. "

===>   Uh-huh, and the energy in the battery will come from where?

That's another question that freshmen physics students...the ones who will actually graduate with degrees in physics...will also bring up.    Right now the energy in the battery comes either from:  

A) charging up the battery using a gasoline engine 

B) regenerative braking   or  

C) for plugins from burning coal to make steam to push turbine blades to turn a generator to drive electricity onto a somewhat lossy electrical grid to drive a somewhat lossy charger in your garage.

Note that the energy recaptured in B) originally comes from A) or C).

Ergo, even assuming the battery technology gets as good and cheap as you'd like it, you still need good cheap plentiful A) or C), or good substitutes for those.


Tue, 01/11/2011 - 14:16 | 867522 Gigliola Cinquetti
Gigliola Cinquetti's picture

Trust the germans to be very very very competitive in this race . They already set a world record recently .


The lithium metal polymer battery in that car is also german (DBM Energy) and estimated to have a 300 wH capacity (pretty close to the 400 wH target)

Mercedes Benz is also investing heavily in its own battery technology .

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 14:00 | 867454 Mercury
Mercury's picture

Good luck repealing the laws of thermodynamics.

And my Lithium Ion tool batteries last about three years with regular use - why should I expect much beyond that for an electric car battery?

Sold to you.


Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:49 | 867438 New Revolution
New Revolution's picture

"Laissez faire liberatarian approach now in vogue in America"???    WTFing America are you talking about?   It's certainly not the one I live in that is oppressed by a completely out of control Kleptocracy that has things so tied up that you couldn't get a crust of bread past the bankers and big corps that dine on the American Taxpayer on a daily basis.   There's no innovation because there's no means for the entreprenuer.   The America I live in consumes itself and bears no relationship to the America you describe.   Just where the hell do you live?

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 14:12 | 867510 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

The America I live in consumes itself


Correction: consumes the world.

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:54 | 867453 ATG
ATG's picture


Ron Paul 2012

1776 the answer to 1984

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:48 | 867426 ATG
ATG's picture

Caveat emptor

MHFT must think people don't read his links

For those who don't, out of 11 ideas boasted today,

two went up a year later, SQM and GLD

Seven went down or sideways

About as good as MHFT idea of converting CDOs held to AltA and Subprime Mortgages

Also, last we checked, SQM was a Chilean Company, putting a lie to China having 97% of strategic minerals

Scratch a liberal and find the big lie


Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:48 | 867436 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Scratch a liberal and find the big lie


Correction here: scratch a US citizen and find the big lie. Because what is true in the US save the duplicity?

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:38 | 867408 proLiberty
proLiberty's picture


"In the end, it may come down to whether our Chinese professors are smarter than their Chinese professors."

There is more to this than being a smart professor.  A few years ago, I remember how the government-industrial-educational complex trembled in their boots at the news the Japanese government was going to employ their finest and brightest to lead the world in Artificial Intelligence.  And where did that go?  Not nearly as far as it had been hyped.

When government presumes to be able to successfully choose winners and losers, most often it fails miserably.  Government, especially a communist one that would rather see tens of millions dead than give up power, is everywhere and always a political animal.  As such, it only makes economic decisions for political reasons.  Government cannot make economic decisions for economic reasons. 

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:46 | 867395 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

No significant advance since x?

 Considering that submarines dive cruise mode was powered by batteries, WW2 and stuff, looks like usual propaganda from the author.


It is all reminiscent of the 1960’s missile race, when a huge NASA organization led by Dr. Werner Von Braun beat the Russians to the moon, proving our Germans were better than their Germans.

Consumers were the ultimate winners of that face off as the profusion of technologies the space program fathered pushed standards of living up everywhere. I bet that’s how this contest ends as well.


Shameless propaganda. The US is built on an expansion model, always more to transfer from.

Space was supposed to be the New Earth to expand into. It returned a negative. Transfer from Space to Earth was to be scarce. While transfer from  Earth to Space was to be the main side of the relationship. 

Selling as a victory the by products of a failed project as vital as the Space conquest was in terms of sustainability of the US model,  is pure non sense.

Like a guy who failed a job interview, bought candies on the path back to home, and tells family how the failure to the job interview is great because it gave an opportunity to buy candies. 

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:29 | 867380 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Great article.

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:28 | 867378 proLiberty
proLiberty's picture

"Hence, the need for government subsidies to get private industry over the cost/production hump." 

Sorry, but it DOES NOT get it over the hump.  The hump is there nevertheless!  It is just that we have induced government to impose the cost upon a third party.  If that cost-shifting mechanism is to just print the money, that mechanism is simply to dilute the value of all dollars in circulation. 

Electric (coal powered) cars will face the same ecnomic fate as wind power and ethanol.  Government cannot sustain the subsidy forever.  When the subsidy ends, the "hump" then is fully exposed and economic reality exerts itself. 

If electric (coal powered) cars are so great, they must stand on their own economic feet.  They very well may be great, but it is not worth wasting hundreds of billions of dollars of government money to find out a few years earlier than the market would have otherwise have told us anyway.


Tue, 01/11/2011 - 14:01 | 867370 cowdiddly
cowdiddly's picture

Best article I've ever read from you Leo. I think you are finally on to the real tech race. Solar? well............................ Only one itsy bitsy problem. Now that everyone is losing their house, What is the apartment landlords going to say about that 2/0 gauge welding cable coming out out the window. Also, If this is a race between countries, are not 97% of the rare earths needed for battery production in the hands of one playa? Looks like someone has at least a two year head start. 

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:19 | 867355 AR15AU
AR15AU's picture

If we got rid of the EPA, we'd be light years ahead of China in rare earths, coal, nuclear, etc. American voters clearly don't want to win the industrialization race.

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:19 | 867354 mick_richfield
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"The laissez faire, libertarian approach"


And ... Fed delenda est.


Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:17 | 867351 malikai
malikai's picture

On the one hand, I am diametrically opposed to government meddling with what should be private ventures. As a Libertarian I find the concentration of power and curruptability of government funding in any industry terrifying.

On the other hand, there is no sane argument that the technological breakthroughs you mention as being sponsored by government would have otherwise been made at the pace they were, without government involvement. Having cognitive dissonance sux.

If only the US government wouldn't have blown so many trillions of dollars propping up their corrupt buddies on Wall Street, I would have much more faith in the ability of the US to produce results similar to what was produced during the space race.

I hope the next technical breakthroughs come from the US. However, I wouldn't bet the house on it. Especially considering our recent track record of saving the corrupt at the behest of the honest.

Also note, most people here realize that global warming is an absolute scam. In the future, if you want people here to actually read your articles fully, it would be better to keep that tidbit out. Remember, the real energy problem is not AGW, but resource depletion/economical access.

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:36 | 867401 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

I would have much more faith in the ability of the US to produce results similar to what was produced during the space race.


The whole space race was driven by the belief there would be a new space to expand into. It returned a negative.

The US then used the money to support what expansion they can where they can.

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:12 | 867334 66Sexy
66Sexy's picture

buy palladium bitchez!

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:02 | 867313 Dr. Porkchop
Dr. Porkchop's picture

I don't know how EVs are going to ever get anything other than a small market share. A society that is steadily becoming less affluent and mired in debt is going to make all the necessary investments in infrastructure to make this work? What about the electrical grid? Where would the extra juice come from to handle the charging demand?

Right now there are two things that you can do to improve ICE effeciency that are totally free; Drive less, and don't drive like a douchebag (slow down).

Those things, however, go back to what CHS said about making trade offs. Presidents are fond of saying that the American way of life is 'non-negotiable'.

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 13:17 | 867345 66Sexy
66Sexy's picture

The american way of life is becoming extinct; its fueled by credit and a working class that do not earn living wages. A living wage is now about 5,000 per month; most working stiffs make far far less than that on an hourly wage; holed up in shared accomodations, eating top ramen and chef boyardee. not exactly what i'd call a "way of life"... at least thats the future of it, without those credit cards to "put off" the costs of filling gas tanks for those cummutes to the city, and wall mart junk that falls apart because of corporate consumer cyclicism.


There is no profit in morality.. no benefit to our corporate dictatorship masters to building products that actually last.

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