Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Automotive battery research in the NYT

Not every day you see gloveboxes in the New York Times
(photo of QuantumScape in Silicon Valley)
credit: Gabriela Hasbun for The New York Times
Via the New York Times, this article: 

As automakers like General Motors, Volkswagen and Ford Motor make bold promises about transitioning to an electrified, emission-free future, one thing is becoming obvious: They will need a lot of batteries.

Demand for this indispensable component already outstrips supply, prompting a global gold rush that has investors, established companies and start-ups racing to develop the technology and build the factories needed to churn out millions of electric cars.

...One thing is certain: It’s a great time to have a degree in electrochemistry. Those who understand the properties of lithium, nickel, cobalt and other materials are to batteries what software coders are to computers. Jakub Reiter, for example, has been fascinated with battery chemistry since he was a teenager in the 1990s in Prague, long before that seemed like a hot career choice.

Mr. Reiter was doing graduate research in Germany in 2011 when a headhunter recruited him to work at BMW, which wanted to understand the underlying science of batteries. Last year, InoBat poached him to help set up a factory in Slovakia, where Volkswagen, Kia, Peugeot and Jaguar Land Rover produce cars.

Mr. Reiter is now head of science at InoBat, whose technology allows customers to quickly develop batteries for different uses, like a low-cost battery for a commuter car or a high-performance version for a roadster.

“Twenty years ago, nobody cared much about batteries,” Mr. Reiter said. Now, he said, there is intense competition, and “it’s a big fight.”

Always glad to see chemists of any stripe getting their turn in the sun. It will be interesting to see if the observation that it's a great time to be an electrochemist comes true, and where the battery designers of the future will be located... (can you actually get a degree in electrochemistry?) 


  1. As an electrochemist - as far as I know, I haven't heard of an "electrochemistry" degree in the US. As this story indicates, a lot of research in electrochemistry now is devoted to energy storage, so most of the training would be in these research groups. It seems to me that a lot of industrial uses of electrochemistry (such as chlor-alkali and aluminum) are mature technologies with most research done in industry, mainly to improve efficiency. As far as analytical chemistry, probably most of the research now would be in sensors. And there's still corrosion research, mostly done in materials science departments.

  2. I know of two different undergrad chemistry students in the relatively small chemistry cohort where I got my BS (graduated last spring) were interested in battery research. Even more in the same class were interested in pursuing inorganic chemistry post-BS. It's a small sample set of course, but there seems to be a pool of interested or at least tangentially-trained undergrads out there.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20