Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future

Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future

Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future

Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future


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To achieve fossil fuel independence, few technologies are more important than batteries. Used for powering zero-emission vehicles, storing electricity from solar panels and wind turbines, and revitalizing the electric grid, batteries are essential to scaling up the renewable energy resources that help address global warming. But given the unique environmental impact of batteries—including mining, disposal, and more—does a clean energy transition risk trading one set of problems for another?

In Charged, James Morton Turner unpacks the history of batteries to explore why solving "the battery problem" is critical to a clean energy transition. As climate activists focus on what a clean energy future will create—sustainability, resiliency, and climate justice—the history of batteries offers a sharp reminder of what building that future will consume: lithium, graphite, nickel, and other specialized materials. With new insight on the consequences for people and communities on the front lines, Turner draws on the past for crucial lessons that will help us build a just and clean energy future, from the ground up.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780295752181
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Publication date: 05/09/2023
Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 682,949
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

James Morton Turner is professor of environmental studies at Wellesley College. He is author of The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964 and coauthor of The Republican Reversal: Conservatives and the Environment from Nixon to Trump.

Table of Contents

Foreword: What's the Matter with Batteries Paul S. Sutter ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction Batteries Included 1

1 Lead-Acid Batteries and a Culture of Mobility 16

2 AA Batteries and a Throwaway Culture 57

3 Lithium-Ion Batteries, the Smartphone, and a Wireless Revolution 95

4 Electric Cars, Tesla, and a Zero-Emissions Future 131

Conclusion Building a Clean Energy Future from the Ground Up 167

Notes 187

Bibliography 221

Index 227

What People are Saying About This

Simon Moores

Lithium ion batteries, electric vehicles, and their critical mineral supply chains are the oil pipelines of tomorrow. Charged is crucial in framing our biggest challenge: scaling from the niche critical minerals to mainstream commodities fueling the fourth industrial revolution.

Adam Rome

Charged is history that can make history. Turner's brilliant book will help with one of the great challenges of our time—the transition to a sustainable energy system. Full of arresting insights, written with grace and verve, Charged ends with smart suggestions about what still needs to change for batteries to drive a greener future. It's a model for historians who aim to shape contemporary debate about pressing issues and a must-read for everyone working to move the world beyond fossil fuels.

Megan A. Black

Turner's pathbreaking book deftly unpacks a key feature of modern history—the battery—and traces its globe-spanning material footprint. Detailing the incremental successes in battery engineering and recycling alongside the industry's persistent failures in social and environmental justice, Charged is nothing short of a manual for building a more humane clean energy future.

Jenny Price

Charged answers all the questions you didn't know to ask about batteries then and now. It complicates basic assumptions about technology, supply chains, and sustainability. And Turner marshals it all to offer a remarkably specific (dare I say electrifying?) blueprint to achieve the early-21st-century great white whale—a just transition to a clean energy future.

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