Batteries are “the glue of the clean-energy economy”
Oct 12, 2021
Episode 537

Batteries are “the glue of the clean-energy economy”

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And the future sounds hopeful.

We’ve gone from lead-acid batteries in our cars to the lithium-ion batteries that power our phones and devices in a relatively short amount of time.

The next generation of batteries will need to be big enough to power homes, cities and our electrical grid because experts believe that’ll be key to our transition away from fossil fuels.

“Batteries have really been called the glue of the clean-energy economy because … the wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine … and so we need to have not only enough storage for the few minutes or the few hours between uses, but we need to be able to provide that super-high-reliability storage for hours, days, weeks and seasons,” said Dan Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and adviser for innovative energy solutions at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Our current go-to battery technology is lithium ion. But there are so many other technologies coming online that will become the core of our clean energy economy.

On today’s show: one of the most hopeful climate-related deep dives we’ve had in a while. We’ll talk with Kammen about some of the latest battery technology and what it’s going to take to make it cheaper, greener and accessible to all.

Side note: Molly Wood is doing a whole podcast on lithium batteries called “How We Survive.” Don’t forget to subscribe!

In the newsfix, we get hard numbers on how climate change is affecting people all over the world, and explain the latest fight over vaccine mandates in Texas.

Plus, a listener gives us a firsthand account of the oil spill off the coast of Southern California, and an answer to the Make Me Smart question that will get you thinking about your toothbrush.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week we’ll explain the global supply chain mess, a new form of advertising in the NBA, and the cult success of the “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Read the transcript here.

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Donna Tam Interim Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer