Almost everyone has heard of Elon Musk. Virtually no one knows who Akira Yoshino is. Which is analogous to fiction – vs. fact – about electric cars.
Yoshino is the guy who pretty much invented the lithium-ion battery back in 1985, so he knows a thing or two about the technical and economic problems which must be overcome in order for electric cars – which are powered by really big lithium-ion battery packs – to be viable as mass-market, affordable, everyday-driver cars.
Especially automated electric cars – the ones which will supposedly be used to game-change the car business by rendering obsolete the concept of individual ownership, to be replaced by transportation on demand. To be provided by fleets of automated electric cars.
For them, the technical and economic problems are even more serious than for the individually owned electric car – because they will be expected to operate almost continuously, without major downtime for recharging. Consider the implications of this.
Yoshino has. The industry ought to.
“A car shared by 10 people means it will be running 10 times more,” he explains.
“Durability will become very important.”
And durability is a problem when a battery pack is in near constant use, subjected to repeated daily discharge/recharge cycling – which would be necessary for the transportation as a service idea to work. Well, for it to work without doubling (or tripling) down on the number of cars that would comprise the automated/transportation-as-a-service fleet – most of them offline at any given moment due to battery wilt.
Yoshino, who developed rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for applications such as portable cameras, laptops and the like says that “… cars are a completely new application, and we’ll have to wait until we find out what kind of batteries will really be needed. The future of batteries depends on what will happen to the future of the automobile society.”
He means that what works well in a small electronic device works differently in a large mechanical device.
A laptop’s power requirements are comparatively minimal – a fraction of the power requirements of even a cordless drill (which also uses the same battery technology). And an electric car uses many orders of magnitude more power than an electric drill. Think about the leverage need to get a 3,000 pound car moving from rest. If you have tried to push a car with a dead battery – electric or not – you’ll know exactly what’s involved.
And to get power back into the battery takes time – perhaps the electric car’s biggest functional problem given that most people want to get back on the road in a few minutes or less. To address that problem, manufacturers of electric cars and manufacturers of batteries have been working to develop faster charging rigs, which pump twice the voltage of the common household outlet into the battery. This knocks down the charge time from hours to a bit less than an hour. Still, too long.
And it taxes the battery, per Yoshino san.
Fast charging works on a battery in much the same way that rapid pressurization/depressurization cycling works on the fuselage of an airplane: It fatigues the metal faster. Which shortens its useful life.
Just so, the battery’s durability – its useful service life – is affected by how fast (and how often) it is subjected to recharging cycles. This is why you slow-charge new/out-of-the-box batteries. And it’s why electric car battery packs also do better when slow-charged.
This is chemistry and can’t be gotten around – assuming the battery technology in use.
Which means there is a big problem insofar as automated electric cars for transportation-as-service. It won’t work if they aren’t durable – think about the life of a New York City taxicab – and they can’t be durable if they are in regular use (like a New York taxi cab).
Almost no one in the car press wants to talk about this – and Yoshino is getting crapped on for breaking ranks and saying such truthful if nettlesome things publicly. It upsets the applecart of the automated electric car future that’s being pushed on us even more aggressively than acceptance of gender fluidity.
Elon, of course, tells us that these problems will be solved shortly. But these assurances may be of a piece with predictions that “peak oil” is just around the corner . . . and that we will be sending tourists to Mars within five years.
Elon, after all, is a carny barker – not an engineer.
Yoshino san, on the other hand, is an engineer – and thus, worries about nettlesome facts, while questioning extravagant promise-making.
. . .
Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
If you like what you’ve found here, please consider supporting EPautos.
We depend on you to keep the wheels turning!
Our donate button is here.
If you prefer not to use PayPal, our mailing address is:
721 Hummingbird Lane SE
Copper Hill, VA 24079
PS: EPautos magnets – they’re back! are free to those who send in $20 or more to support the site. Also, the eBook – free! – is available. Click here. Just enter you email in the box on the top of the main page and we’ll email you a copy instantly!