Daily Management Review

Future Of Mobility Is Convergence Of Auto And Tech Industries, Says Battery Pioneer Akira Yoshino


Future Of Mobility Is Convergence Of Auto And Tech Industries, Says Battery Pioneer Akira Yoshino
The credit for the dramatic changes that have been brought out in the automotive and technology industries because of lithium-ion batteries can be accorded to Akira Yoshino, a co-winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his on these batteries.
This is the first time in the history of automobile that conventional fossil fuel based combustion engines are being given a run for their money by the use of lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles  - a segment of the global auto market that is fast gaining popularity among the masses.
There will likely be more disruption ahead as the transportation and digital technology are getting fused into one single industry and they both share lithium battery technology, said Yoshino, who is currently an honorary fellow at Asahi Kasei, the Japanese chemical company where he has spent working for almost 50 years.
In an interview to the news agency Reuters, Yoshino talked at length about the next generation of electric vehicle batteries, the possibility of development of shared autonomous electric vehicles that would be able to charge themselves, the potential for hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles and the chances about Apple being able to lead the way for converging author and information technology industries to create the new future of mobility.
“There are two major areas of innovation that would be the key. One would be new cathode materials and anode materials. The second one would be the system where the EV is used. In other words, how people will be using the EVs, and how they charge them and discharge them,” said Yoshino talking about the possibility of lithium-ion becoming the dominant EV battery chemistry.
Yoshino believes that the highest potential use of lithium-ion batteries lies in sharing of such batteries and people paying for their use. “If autonomous electric vehicles can become practical, that will cause a huge change in the way people use vehicles,” Yoshino said.
Yoshino believes that the world already has the basic technology for wireless charging for electric vehicle batteries but the issue lies in finding out how to apply the technology in a practical system.
“There are two possibilities. One is cars that are parked in a certain place where wireless charging is available. The second one is while the car is moving. It's probably not going to be on every road, but on certain roads where this is available, that could be possible,” he said.
“If you think of autonomous electric vehicles, the vehicles will know when they need to charge and on their own just go to the charging station. That kind of situation can be practical sooner than you think,” Yoshino added.
The use of fuel cell presents challenges of technology and costs for auto makers, Yoshino said, while stressing that it is possible to overcome the challenges. 
“Hypothetically, an autonomous vehicle could be run by a gasoline engine, it could be electric, it could be a fuel cell. It doesn't matter what the power source is. But it needs to replenish its energy somehow. If the vehicle can't do that automatically without a human intervention, the system is kind of meaningless. The same thing would be true for gasoline or hydrogen,” Yoshino said.