Plus quick impressions from a clean-tech conference in Rotterdam  

Dear Jay,

Last week I was at the Clean Tech Summit in Rotterdam, where 40 startups presented their projects to venture capitalists. Over two days, I spoke to a whole lot of people who are working on the future of energy storage – I hope to turn much of what I heard into articles very soon.

One striking comment someone made: Many movers and shakers in the clean-tech sector defected from the financial sector. They had earned money hand over fist, but it no longer felt good. Interesting how people can change. I’d love to know exactly what it takes before people make that step. Do any of you have any concrete examples?

A hundred Gigafactories: enough for the whole world?
Work in progress: a piece about Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s claim that we could store enough energy for the whole world in a hundred battery factories. Outfits like Nevada’s Gigafactory, which should look like the artist’s impression above by 2020, will have to produce more lithium-ion batteries apiece than are currently manufactured worldwide. Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp said he’d like to see Gigafactory number two make its home in the Netherlands, but there are other countries in the running. The article will be published next week. After that, I’ll write more on whether Musk’s vision is actually achievable

Trump vs. Musk
For those of you who are more politically-minded: Every morning I read the latest rumblings from Donald Trump about issues like wind farms near his Scottish golf course and scrapping NASA’s climate research. Then I eat my Wheaties and get back to work. As president, this man will undoubtedly influence the future of the battery. All the more reason to keep a close eye on how Gigafactory developments unfold. This includes keeping tabs on the media trolls spreading misinformation about Musk. And be sure to take a look at the latest campaign against Musk by right-wing PR folks and stakeholders in the fossil-fuel industry, led by Laura Ingraham, who’s in the running to become the White House press secretary. Part of that campaign is the website (“the one-stop database on stopping Elon Musk”).

The likelihood that America will enact a tax on CO2 – which Musk says is necessary to build those hundred battery plants – seems smaller than ever. But at last week’s clean-tech conference I spoke to a former venture capitalist who now runs his own clean-energy storage company (i.e., one of those who left the financial sector for clean tech). He said:

Trump is great. You know why? He’s just not interested in climate change. That forces these ideas to be economic. And only when these ideas are economic do they become opportunities on a much larger scale. Solar is way past that. It used to be an attractive idea. It’s now becoming: How could you not do this?” 

Meanwhile, Musk himself is also trying to reassure shareholders.

The Battery Series by Visual Capitalist

A triple primer on the basics of batteries
Last but not least, I wrote these three feature articles, which form the foundation for what I’ll be doing for the coming while:  analyzing the role batteries play in our transition to a sustainable energy world and how they’ll change our mobility.

Batteries: indispensable now and in the future. But what are they? (How did we come to have them, and how do they work? An explainer for those who ditched chemistry in high school.)

13 things to ask yourself when you read about the next new superbattery (And all the requirements it needs to meet.)

Batteries are big business. These infographics reveal why (A glowing recommendation for five highly informative infographics on batteries from The Visual Capitalist, with a critical caveat.)

I’m still in need of help from physicists, chemists, and experts on sustainability and energy, especially to read through articles before they’re published. If you’re interested and have the time, I’d love to hear from you!


Thanks and until next time!

Thalia Verkade 
Clean Tech and Mobility Correspondent

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