Lithium Ion Battery Inventor: EVs Need Stronger Batteries

Many people believe that electric vehicles represent the future of the automotive industry, and it’s hard to argue with them.

Generally speaking, running a car on electricity is considerably less expensive than using gasoline as a fuel source. There are other savings, as well.

Maintenance costs can be far lower for electric vehicles than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts because EVs are comprised of fewer parts that need less frequent servicing. Plus, the environmental benefits of electric cars and their reduced greenhouse gas emissions becomes increasingly attractive as climate change weighs more heavily on corporate and consumer behavior.

But a series of roadblocks have delayed the long-awaited spread of electric vehicles over the years. Reshaping the primary energy source for the world’s foremost form of transportation is no small feat, it turns out. And in a recent interview with Bloomberg, one of the inventors of the lithium-ion battery raised another issue that EV designers ought to pay close attention to.

“Cars are a completely new application, and we’ll have to wait until we find out what kind of batteries will really be needed,” said Akira Yoshino, who created a prototype of the lithium-ion battery in 1985. “The future of batteries depends on what will happen to the future of the automobile society.”

Yoshino’s concerns have to do with emerging driverless car technology, and the ways in which it may reshape vehicle ownership models.

Transportation experts expect that autonomous vehicles, which will likely be electric vehicles, will cause a shift away from individual car ownership and towards ride-hailing services offered by fleet owners. Since these driverless cars can theoretically operate 24/7, Yoshino believes that the current EV battery designs will have to change.

“A car shared by ten people means it will be running ten times more,” he said. “Durability will become very important.”

Working for Japanese chemical company Asahi Kasei Corp. in the 1980s, Yoshino invented a lithium-ion battery prototype that used polyacetylene as the anode, enabling the small, rechargeable electronic devices that are now so central to modern life.

Electric battery concerns recently arose when Tesla unveiled its Semi, an all-electric freight truck that claimed impressive performance specs. Bloomberg reporters Tom Randall and John Lippert questioned whether Tesla will be able to live up to those promises.

“Tesla’s current generation of high-speed Superchargers have a power output of 120 kilowatts and can add about 180 miles to the battery in a Model S sedan in 30 minutes. But that’s for a passenger car, not a loaded truck,” Randall and Lippert wrote. “To meet Tesla’s claim of 400 miles in 30 minutes for a semi carrying 80,000 pounds would require its new Megachargers to achieve output of more than 1200 kW — or more than ten times better than Tesla’s fastest chargers available today.”

This would seem to support Yoshino’s claim that a new battery is needed.

What isn’t yet known is whether Tesla, or some other company, has already made significant strides toward creating one. While Musk is certainly given to grand talk, it’s unlikely he would want to make promises he can’t deliver on. So perhaps that increasingly durable battery that Yoshino envisions isn’t that far away after all.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *