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  • The entire kind of arc of human history

  • has really been defined

  • by how we harness and capture energy.

  • You know, initially starting

  • with us leveraging things like fire

  • and then later coal and petroleum fuel sources

  • for our energy needs.

  • And really the great opportunity going forward is this idea

  • that we can capture renewable energy sources,

  • store that energy in batteries

  • and then use that to power our lives.

  • Advances in battery design over the past few decades

  • have made modern technology possible, but it's not enough.

  • We need better, cheaper, more energy dense batteries

  • if we're going to make electric cars ubiquitous

  • and save the planet.

  • Now companies are on the verge of battery breakthroughs

  • that could change the world.

  • The battery industry

  • has been kind of stuck making batteries one way

  • for like 50 years and we think

  • it's just time for that to change.

  • A battery looks like a black box quite literally sometimes

  • but inside it is a very complex mixture of chemicals.

  • There are four components.

  • There are two electrodes, cathode and anode,

  • there's a separator

  • and then there's a liquid electrolyte typically.

  • And the electrolyte's job is to be able

  • to shuttle irons between the two electrodes.

  • And that's what charges the battery

  • and that's what allows the battery to be then discharged

  • and produce power.

  • Among the everyday technologies,

  • batteries are perhaps one of the oldest

  • because batteries were invented even

  • before electricity was invented

  • which is to say there was no way to generate electricity

  • until somebody made a battery and that was back in 1799

  • by an Italian scientist named Volta.

  • And what he created was actually called a voltaic pile.

  • It wasn't even called a battery back then.

  • And it was called a pile because

  • it was literally a pile of two different types of metal

  • in this case, copper and zinc separated

  • by typically a piece of cardboard that was dipped in vinegar

  • To get a feel for how a battery works,

  • we decided to build our own.

  • I got a copper sheet, I got a couple zinc sheets.

  • I cut them into one by one squares

  • and I also got a coffee filter

  • that I cut into one inch squares too.

  • Right, just to start off, keep a simple aluminum foil

  • at the bottom.

  • Okay. So that you're able to test

  • whether the battery is working or not.

  • On top of you put a copper sheet.

  • And so now you have to dip the coffee filter

  • into a solution of salt and water.

  • Okay.

  • Then you put your coffee filter.

  • Done. Then you place

  • the zinc sheet on top.

  • You also have a voltmeter which basically

  • will be able to measure the voltage

  • that this battery will have.

  • Okay so we're getting 0.74 volts.

  • Yeah, that sounds about right.

  • Yeah.

  • Now you can connect a copper cable on either ends

  • and you could solider that on

  • then you can connect it to say an LED light

  • and that should light up.

  • The more cells you pile on the higher the voltage.

  • We piled on 10 layers of zinc and copper

  • to see if we could power up an LED light.

  • So let's test it with an LED light.

  • Okay, it's the moment of truth here.

  • There we go.

  • And that's electricity.

  • Cool.

  • Batteries have come a long way since the voltaic pile

  • but they're still made up of the full basic components,

  • anode, cathode, separator, and electrolyte.

  • The current state of the art lithium-ion battery

  • is small, light and relatively powerful

  • making everything from mobile devices

  • to electric cars possible.

  • But in order to make de-carbonization a reality,

  • batteries need to get much better.

  • We are quite far away from the limits

  • of what a battery can do.

  • Among the different things about batteries

  • that still need to be improved

  • is not just the amount of energy they can store

  • but they also have to do it safely.

  • Batteries also need to be charged more quickly

  • and finally batteries still aren't cheap enough.

  • They probably need to be half the price

  • to be able to compete with the gasoline powered engine.

  • To accomplish all that, a number of companies

  • are going inside the black box

  • and tinkering with those four basic components,

  • hoping to jumpstart the next generation of batteries.

  • Batteries have a long history of pretty slow improvement

  • on the order of four to 5% a year.

  • Think we're one of the few companies

  • that are actually trying

  • to do something pretty revolutionary in this space.

  • Harold Rust company, Enovix,

  • based just South of San Francisco

  • is making one seemingly small tweak

  • to the lithium-ion battery.

  • Replacing the anode typically made of carbon with silicon.

  • So the major advantage of silicon

  • is it has three times the energy density of carbon

  • which it replaces so that allows you to pack more stuff

  • in your battery and drive up energy density.

  • But silicon well, it's a great anode

  • suffers from a bunch of problems

  • and the biggest of which is the fact that it expands 300%.

  • Easy way to think about it is when you're charging a cell

  • the silicon tends to expand and when you discharge it,

  • it compresses or contracts.

  • That's a potentially battery busting problem.

  • But in Enovix claims to have found a solution.

  • A complex method of arranging the batteries components

  • that keeps the silicon under pressure.

  • This 3D architecture allows us to constrain that expansion

  • in a very uniform way within the cell

  • that allows us to maintain a very long cycle life.

  • It allows us to basically manage that swelling

  • without any macroscopic growth of the battery.

  • A silicon anode battery could store about 50% more energy

  • than what's currently on the market.

  • Which could mean we'll be seeing lighter electronics

  • with longer battery life in the near future.

  • We've been actively sampling batteries

  • over the last two years to customers.

  • We're sitting in a room now where we're starting

  • to assemble our first production line.

  • And right now we're targeting first deliveries

  • towards the end of this year.

  • But we're focused on consumer electronics to start.

  • With the technology it's definitely applicable

  • to larger battery applications

  • like EVs potentially grid storage.

  • And so that's on our roadmap.

  • Elsewhere in Silicon Valley, another company

  • is working on an even more ambitious battery design.

  • We started with the mission

  • of trying to narrow the gap that we

  • in combustion engine based vehicles and EVs.

  • And we recognized that the key there

  • was to build a better battery.

  • We could usher in a new era of transportation.

  • 15 minute charge times, better life performance

  • and even lower costs.

  • It turns out all those problems can be addressed

  • if you just switch from a carbon or carbon silicon anode

  • not to a lithium metal anode.

  • Usually the lithium in lithium-ion batteries only refers

  • to the molecule was shuttling between the cathode and anode.

  • Making the anode itself out of lithium

  • could double the energy density of the battery.

  • A much bigger leap than a silicon anode battery,

  • like in Enovix's.

  • We didn't invent the idea of a lithium metal battery.

  • That idea has been around for a very long time

  • even before lithium-ion lithium metal batteries.

  • There's just one small problem.

  • Unfortunately, they're not safe.

  • So typically inside a battery, the electrolyte is liquid

  • but an liquid electrolyte for a lithium metal battery

  • causes the lithium metal to degrade

  • and sometimes even short and catch fire.

  • QuantumScape's main goal was to try and replace

  • what is a liquid electrolyte inside the battery

  • with a solid electrolyte.

  • The problem is that no one has been able to make one

  • that conducts well enough to compete with the liquid.

  • It wasn't clear that even the material existed in nature

  • that could meet these requirements.

  • So we had to explore a wide range of materials,

  • but luckily nature had a material

  • that meets the requirements

  • and our team was able to find it.

  • It's literally a solid material, it's a ceramic material,

  • but it's kind of a very special material

  • because lithium-ions can just zip right through it

  • like they're on a highway.

  • This single powered cell is all QuantumScape

  • was able to show us of they're solid state battery.

  • Ultimately they'll stack 100 of these together

  • to make a complete battery pack.

  • The company is still a few years

  • from selling a commercial product,

  • but the performance improvements they're predicting

  • would be revolutionary.

  • We've shown that we can charge faster.

  • We can get 80% charge at 15 minutes,

  • which is gonna be really important

  • if you're on the road trip

  • or if you don't have a garage to plug your car in

  • and charge overnight.

  • You can get longer range

  • by improving the energy density of the battery.

  • What we've said is we're aiming

  • to have cars driving with these cells in 2024.

  • So the next few years will be

  • about increasing the scale of production.

  • We formed a partnership with Volkswagen in 2012

  • and they've announced that they would partner with us

  • and make a joint venture to commercialize the cells

  • and go into manufacturing together.

  • We think that with these batteries,

  • you're gonna be able to get EVs

  • that compete more effectively

  • with combustion engine-based vehicles.

  • You get more energy density,

  • you have lower costs and longer life.

  • So our mission right now

  • is to get these batteries on the road,

  • try to really transform the automotive sector

  • and in the process really make a dent on CO2 emissions.

  • Companies like QuantumScape and Enovix

  • are imagining a future in which clean, affordable EVs

  • dominate the roads.

  • But the implications go much further than that.

  • Better batteries are key to almost every technology

  • that could slow down climate change.

  • Batteries are what are known as an enabling technology

  • which is that you can use a battery to make an impact

  • across different sectors of the economy

  • and across different types of technologies.

  • So currently our batteries can go in electric cars

  • but there's still a battery that needs to go in a truck.

  • Then there needs to be a battery that goes in a ship

  • and then there needs to be a battery

  • that can go in a plane.

  • There are now bigger and bigger batteries

  • being put on the grid that help us increase

  • the amount of renewables

  • And all those things get a boost

  • with every little innovation that happens in batteries.

  • And so the impact that batteries can have is immense.

The entire kind of arc of human history