Today in membership: Batteries will power the future

We may earn a commission from links on this page.


We have a mighty good field guide to share with you this week, but I first want to talk about the member event we had in New York last Wednesday.

It was such a pleasure and privilege to meet all of you who came out to see us! Our member breakfast with Beth Comstock, former vice chair of General Electric and author of the new book Imagine It Forward, was a delightful time and an illuminating conversation.

Interviewed by Quartz at Work editor Heather Landy over really amazing omelets and French toast, Beth held forth on the topic of corporate boards—a subject of no little newsworthiness and the focus of one of our field guides last month. It was a frank, warm, eye-opening discussion between not only Beth and Heather, but all the members who shared their perspectives on how companies should be governed and what’s needed to make that governance more effective and responsive.

We’ll be doing more member events in the weeks to come—going well beyond New York, to be sure. Stay tuned for more information and if we’re going to be near where you are, come see us. We’d love to talk more about what you’re thinking, and how your Quartz membership can be ever more valuable.

Last week, our field guide looked at humanity’s efforts to stave off aging and death. In a very loose way (stay with me here), our field guide this week is on a related topic: batteries. If the world is going to have to move to a zero-emissions future (and it can’t get there fast enough), it will do so powered by the chemical reactions occurring in the batteries that power our phones and, increasingly, our automobiles.

The potential for batteries is tremendous: Not only are they a clean source of power for all manner of machines, they can become part of a power infrastructure that stores power when it’s not being generated (such as at wind farms or hydroelectric plants). With such potential, a great race is on between companies aiming to be the dominant player in this vital, growing industry.

Not all that surprisingly, some of the biggest contenders are in China, where a combination of ingenuity and government policy has fostered a battery industry unlike anywhere else in the world. Our intrepid energy reporter, Akshat Rathi, has already written for members about China’s growing role in the electrification of our world, and he’s back this week with a deep dive that took him inside China to see firsthand the scale and depth of the country’s current efforts around battery technology.

Akshat begins his field guide with a state of play memo that outlines in clarity and detail the shape of the battery landscape. Over the course of this week, he’ll add more to that work, including:

  • A first-ever look by a Western news organization inside China’s CATL, the world’s largest battery manufacturer
  • A Q&A with MIT material-sciences professor Yet-Ming Chiang, who has started six companies, three of which are focused on batteries
  • A periodic chart of battery elements, to help us better understand the technologies underlying this necessary energy source
  • An honest assessment of what it’s going to take for battery technology to become the breakthrough the planet desperately needs
  • Plus much more…

We also have an update to one of our other field guides today. Mary Pilon, who delved into the eighteen-wheeled world of trucking, is back with a member-exclusive story about Uber, which is expanding into the world of commercial freight, doing for many truck drivers what it did for taxi and limousine drivers over the past years. But trucking is a complicated industry, with relationships between shippers and haulers that can mean all the difference between success and failure. Having sufficiently disrupted the taxi industry (and with a forthcoming IPO expected), can Uber bring the same change to trucking?

Later this Friday, April 5, Akshat and I will talk all about batteries on our weekly members conference call.  The 30-minute discussion will start at 11 am ET/3 pm GMT. If you want to join us by phone, the US dial-in is +1 888 240 2560, and the UK dial-in is +44 203 608 5256; for both numbers, the meeting code is 722 994 440.

We want to hear from you! Please send comments, questions, and big, Costco-sized boxes of double-As to

Here’s to a rewarding day,

Sam Grobart
membership editor