Tools & Technology

Charging Up

Did you know: the first cars didn’t run on gas—they ran on electricity! This week, we talk automotive batteries.

Episode 46 | October 24, 2008

Episode 46: Charging Up by Distillations Podcast

The first cars didn’t run on gas—they ran on electricity. Over a century later, the high cost of fuel has finally forced automakers to take the possibility of battery-powered cars seriously. On today’s show we look at three kinds of batteries that have been proposed as transportation solutions. We start with nickel hydride batteries, the key component of contemporary hybrid cars like Toyota’s Prius. Next, we look at the technology behind hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Producer Devin Browne wraps up the show with an exclusive visit to GM’s battery lab in Warren, Michigan, for a close-up look at the future of lithium-ion battery cars. Element of the Week: Nickel.

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:31 Introduction
01:13 Element of the Week: Nickel
03:08 Mystery Solved! Hydrogen fuel-cell cars
06:38 GM’s lithium-ion battery lab
11:13 Closing Credits

Resources and References

We learned about the Electrovan from “An Electrovan, Not an Edsel,” The New York Times 17 November 2002.

For information on fuel cells, we relied on G. Hoogers, Fuel Cell Technology Handbook (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2003).

You can learn more about electric car batteries from this online article.

For information on the development of the Chevrolet Volt, visit the company’s official home page.


Special thanks go to Chi Chan for researching the show.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music from the PodSafe Music Network and the Internet Archive. Additional music is “Fire and Ice,” by Briareus, “Delorian,” by The Atomica Project, “Moving Picture,” by JayDenton, “Preschool 2040,” by Podcast Troubadour, “Pure Imagination,” from the Willy Wonka Soundtrack, “At Sundown,” by Artie Shaw, and “allmyfriendslistentoelectro,” by DJ Scratchin’.