A method of producing carbon materials for use as electrodes in rechargeable batteries. Electrodes prepared from these carbon materials exhibit intercalation efficiencies of .apprxeq.80% for lithium, low irreversible loss of lithium, long cycle life, are capable of sustaining a high rates of discharge and are cheap and easy to manufacture. The method comprises a novel two-step stabilization process in which polymeric precursor materials are stabilized by first heating in an inert atmosphere and subsequently heating in air. During the stabilization process, the polymeric precursor material can be agitated to reduce particle fusion and promote mass transfer of oxygen and water vapor. The stabilized, polymeric precursor materials can then be converted to a synthetic carbon, suitable for fabricating electrodes for use in rechargeable batteries, by heating to a high temperature in a flowing inert atmosphere.