Autonomous Cars Need More Durable Batteries, Says Lithium-Ion Pioneer

It’s not all about increasing range

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Across the industry, automakers are working to increase the energy density of their batteries so EVs can travel 200 miles or more on a single charge. This is all well and good, but future batteries will also need to be tougher to meet the demands of autonomous ridesharing cars, says Akira Yoshino, who invented a prototype of the lithium-ion battery back in 1985.

“A car shared by 10 people means it will be running 10 times more,” Yoshino told Bloomberg. “Durability will become very important.”

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Yoshino says future batteries should have materials that can withstand constant expansion and contraction. Making these accommodations could require automakers that focus less on increasing a battery’s energy density and range, however. To boost durability, lithium titanate may be used in the anode of the battery instead of carbon.

Yoshino began researching a conducting polymer called polyacetylene in the early 1980s. He built a lithium-ion battery using this polymer as the anode, but later switched to carbon. He is currently an honorary fellow at Asahi Kasei, the world’s biggest producer of separators for batteries.

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“Cars are a completely new application, and we’ll have to wait until we find out what kind of batteries will really be needed,” Yoshino said. “The future of batteries depends on what will happen to the future of the automobile society.”

Hyundai’s top executive for autonomous vehicles has also touched on the problem of making batteries suitable for self-driving cars. Speaking with WardsAuto recently, Woongjung Jang said these vehicles consume so much power, which can decrease driving range. We can thank the advanced data processing systems in autonomous cars for draining their batteries so quickly.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts EVs will make up 54 percent of new car sales by 2040. The proliferation of EVs is expected to coincide with the rollout of autonomous cars. A number of automakers are looking to bring out advanced autonomous systems in the early 2020s.

Source: Bloomberg

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