ISSUE #59 – Interview with Rachid Yazami, President & Founding Director, KVI Pte Ltd
In 2011, Rachid Yazami founded KVI Pte Ltd, a new start-up company in Singapore dedicated to battery life and safety enhancement for mobile electronics, large energy storage, and electric vehicle applications. The KVI technology is based on thermodynamic principles and methods.
Rachid Yazami was awarded the 2014 Charles Stark Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering for pioneering and leading the groundwork for today’s lithium-ion-battery. He shares about his work and views on the future of energy storage.
WHICH ONE OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS IN THE AREA OF ENERGY STORAGE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?
Prior to the 1980s, the use of lithium batteries was fairly uncommon. Anode materials in use then were inherently unstable and susceptible to explosions. In 1979-1980, I pioneered the use of the graphite anode as a safer alternative.
Today, this technology is used in most commercial lithium batteries. You can find it in a wide range of applications, from mobile phones to grid-level storage. For my research work, I was awarded the Draper prize – the Nobel equivalent for engineers – in 2014.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO CONTINUE YOUR RESEARCH WORK IN SINGAPORE?
There is great market potential for energy storage in Asia, with substantial R&D and business activities taking place in this region. I decided to anchor my research work in Singapore as I noted its ambitious targets for R&D and the amount of support provided to translate lab-based solutions to commercialised end-products. In fact, one of my companies, KVI Pte Ltd, was a beneficiary of this system. It was set up in 2011 to commercialise my team’s research work in new thermodynamic methods and equipment for more accurate condition monitoring of batteries, fuel cells and electrochemical capacitors.
There is great market potential for energy storage in Asia
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES DO YOU FORESEE IN SINGAPORE IN RENEWABLE ENERGIES AND IN ENERGY STORAGE TECHNOLOGIES SPECIFICALLY?
With a population of about 5.5 million, Singapore is a relatively small market compared to its neighbours. Where Singapore can make an economic impact in energy storage is in developing and mastering high-value-added technologies.
A combination of a high level of education and attracting the right top-level international industries in the field should generate know-how. This can eventually be exported to countries in the region, in addition to responding to local demand in energy management and efficiency.
About energy storage technologies, the use of batteries and battery capacities are increasing so fast that the challenge now lies in security and controlling fi re hazard.
HOW CAN SINGAPORE CAPITALISE ON THESE OPPORTUNITIES? WHICH AREAS DESERVE MORE ATTENTION?
Energy storage is among the faster-growing markets for lithium-ion battery applications. There are serious opportunities for Singapore to catch a significant part of the market by building know-how and a strong culture around energy storage to become a technological hub in South East Asia.
The area where Singapore may make a difference is in energy efficiency. This would relate to advanced battery management systems that will enable energy storage systems to be more long-lasting, cost effective, safe and reliable.
Interview published in the FOCUS Magazine “The Enterprising Spirit” – Issue #1 2016