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Technology speaker Paul Markillie on how better batteries will change the world

In a January marked by geopolitical tensions and market upheaval, it was a welcome change of mood to catch up with expert technology speaker Paul Markillie and talk about technology’s potential to make people’s lives better. In the first of three conversations, we discussed how better batteries are set to change the world and create all kinds of new markets. In Paul’s view, this is one of the most important technologies we’ll see in the next decade. As the Economist’s Innovation Editor, he should know.

You can listen to our conversation on the Soundcloud link above, and see the key points in my brief summary below. And if you’re interested in having Paul speak at your next event, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Happy listening!

Leo

Energy Storage

  • Better batteries could make it possible to store power generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar, allowing businesses and homes to go off-grid. This would transform the energy industry.

Electric Cars

  • Most electric cars currently use lithium ion batteries, which cost US$400-500 per kilowatt hour.
  • But the new Chevy Bolt’s battery costs only US$145 per kilowatt hour. The industry is moving towards batteries costing only US$100 per kilowatt hour, which would allow these cars to compete with petrol engines.
  • This is being driven by the development of new lithium compounds, as well as materials that make solid-state batteries more viable.

Rival technologies

  • However, not everyone in the motor industry is convinced that batteries are the way forward. 
  • For example, Toyota has focused on hydrogen fuel cell powered electric cars such as its Mirai model. They argue these would be able to travel further and would be more convenient – they could be charged at the equivalent of petrol stations, rather than having to be topped up via cables at home.

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