Akira Yoshino Presents Vision For Battery, Electric Vehicle Futures

By Allison Proffitt

February 20, 2019 | At the 2019 CAR Symposium last week in Bochum, Germany, Akira Yoshino, pioneer of the lithium ion battery and Honorary Fellow of Asahi Kasei, presented his assessment of the current state of lithium ion batteries and his vision for electric vehicle applications in the future.

Dr. Yoshino shared his remarks and slides with Battery Power Online after the event.

The lithium ion battery market has grown steeply since 2015, driven by electric vehicles. In 2017, electric vehicle applications exceeded mobile applications for lithium ion batteries. Dr. Yoshino predicts that 2018 data will show another 1.5x increase for electric vehicle use. Dr. Yoshino expects that by 2025 EV applications will be about 10x higher than mobile and IT applications. By 2025, Dr. Yoshino believes 500 GWH of LIB capacity will be shipped worldwide.

Using the Nissan Leaf as a representative example, Dr. Yoshino explained that the first generation of electric vehicles had a driving range of about 200 km, with graphite anodes and LCO, NCA, LNCM, LMO, and LiFePO4 cathodes.

Second generation electric vehicles, from about 2017 through 2025, have a driving range extended to 400 km. Dr. Yoshino expects anodes to shift to graphite/silicon composites, while cathodes focus on NCA, LNCM, LMN, and LMNC chemistries.

But a turning point is coming, Dr. Yoshino told the audience. Until about 2025, Dr. Yoshino expects electric vehicles to make up about 15% of the vehicle fleet. As we move past second generation electric vehicles—and into increased international regulation for internal combustion engine vehicles—he sees battery chemistry improvements that could extend driving ranges to 500 km, perhaps increasing the number of EVs on the road.

But instead of simply greater ranges, Dr. Yoshino predicts a much more seismic shift in the electric vehicle market. And batteries will be crucial to the new car culture.

Energy Revolution Caused By Batteries

By 2025, Dr. Yoshino sees worldwide efforts focusing on CASE (connected-autonomous shared-electric) and MaaS (mobility as a service). Dr. Yoshino predicts a new transportation culture where vehicles are almost exclusively shared and driverless.

The future of car society is AIEV, he says: electric vehicles driven by artificial intelligence.

Dr. Yoshino serves as an executive advisor to KRI, a contract research organization based in Kyoto. He shared a KRI video demonstrating how the system may work.

Users subscribe to a network of AIEVs similar to the way we choose a monthly mobile plan now. By sharing the costs of the vehicles, KRI predicts costs to the individual to go to 1/7 current costs. The firm predicts environmental advantages as well as improved traffic and decreased traffic accidents.

But most interestingly for batteries, Dr. Yoshino sees the fleet of AIEVs as a mobile storage system. Vehicles will manage their own charge and discharge needs.

“In addition to carrying people around, AIEVs play the role of carrying energy to places that need it. AIEVs spread throughout the whole society store enough electricity to last for ten hours if 50 power plants shut down,” according to the video’s English subtitles. “Fully automated charging and discharging stations everywhere. When the power supply is stable, all the AIEVs charge up. When power is in short supply, they discharge wherever needed. Together they function as a giant reservoir of energy that is drained and refilled. This function serves to overcome the fluctuation of renewable energy supply. Dispersed throughout society, the AIEVs form the infrastructure that allows power to be bought and sold, which has a huge economic benefit.”

Dr. Yoshino expects driverless cars to be introduced by 2025 and popularized by 2030. Asahi Kasei, where Dr. Yoshino developed the very first functional and safe prototype of a lithium-ion battery in the early 1980s, hopes to lead the way. The company presented AKXY, its electric concept vehicle, incorporating 37 different materials and innovations of the company for the automotive industry including high-performance plastics, sensors and synthetic rubber.

Annoying Points

To achieve such a vision, Dr. Yoshino believes a few battery characteristics will need to be addressed. These “annoying points” shift in opposition depending on which future you see.

For LIBs and EVs to incrementally improve—drive ranges rise to 500 km, percentage of ownership goes up—battery energy density and vehicle and battery costs are “serious issues”, Dr. Yoshino said. Ownership costs must go down and batteries must power cars longer distances.

But if his AIEV vision materializes, current energy densities and costs are acceptable. Users have access to a fleet of EVs, and can stitch together longer trips from multiple, fully-charged cars.

In the AIEV economy, however, durability is the most serious concern. Dr. Yoshino expects AIEVs to run about ten times more often than privately-owned cars. Batteries would need to be good for total distances of at least 600,000 kilometers, at least 5,000 charge/discharge cycles.

Improved durability will be necessary for batteries to enable the energy revolution. Dr. Yoshino closes the video with a call to action: “With all of your ingenuity, let’s achieve the development of batteries that can change the future.”