An exclusive interview with Zhongqing Yang, President of Myway Plus Corporation, on revolutionizing power electronics, testing & inspection, and battery technology for a sustainable tomorrow.
Can you provide a brief overview of your company?
During my time as a student, I delved into digital control in the field of power electronics, commonly referred to as 'power ele.' At that juncture, control systems primarily relied on analog processes. However, approximately 35 years ago, a major shift toward digitalization began. During this transformative period, I encountered a significant challenge: there were no effective tools available to control micron DSP in power electronics.
Faced with this obstacle and a shared vision of advancing micron DSP control, I decided to establish my own company. Our mission was clear: to make substantial contributions and expedite the development of micron DSP control solutions. Over the years, our efforts have borne fruit, and today, numerous developers and researchers utilize our products.
Major corporations like Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Daikin, have utilized our solutions in the development of their products. At the heart of our offerings lies the development of the operating system (OS) in the field of power electronics. Just as a computer requires an OS like Microsoft, our product provide a critical foundation. Furthermore, we provide a debugging environment for programming and an essential library tailored to power electronics development.
One key advantage of our products is their adaptability. Regardless of changes in DSP or FPGA(※) specifications, customers can rely on the same chip and our products, streamlining the development process. Despite being a smaller company, Myway has cultivated strong business relationships with all firms in the area of research and development. Whenever high-technology solutions are necessary, our products, such as pMOTION and pCUBE, emerge as the preferred choices.
(※About DSP and FPGA Features) DSP While a DSP is simply "a chip that calculates mathematical formulas internally," an FPGA "builds circuits directly inside the chip." The advantage of an FPGA is that the circuits can be miniaturized to high quality. Recently, FPGAs have been widely used in the field of power electronics control.
The pMOTION is a part of your lineup for motor and inverter evaluation and automatically performs various measurements while recreating motor conditions close to the actual environment. Could you go into more detail about the pMOTION, and what makes it superior to more conventional products?
In the automotive industry, inverters play a critical role in powering electric motors. Inverters are electrical, while motors are mechanical. Consequently, these two vital components are typically developed by separate departments within automotive companies. Motor developers are tasked with evaluating motor performance and lifespan to ensure product quality. A common practice is to integrate inverters, developed by a different department, into the motor testing and evaluation process. This approach, though practical, presents certain challenges as motor developers often want to test many things like speed. However, inverters that are already developed as products have certain limitations.
Environmental factors, particularly temperature, become a significant consideration in motor testing. The continuous motion of testing equipment, like rollers, can lead to an increase in temperature. Consequently, to conduct accurate testing, engineers often find themselves waiting for several weeks for the environment to cool down before proceeding. However, our product offers an efficient and automatic solution to this problem. By completing all necessary testing within an hour or even a few minutes, our system ensures that temperature variations do not interfere with the testing process.
The strengths of our product are twofold. First, it facilitates automatic testing with diverse parameters, allowing for comprehensive evaluation. Second, while traditional inverters typically handle up to 100 kWh, our system can manage up to 200 kWh or more, offering the flexibility to work with additional current capacity and conduct more extensive testing. What sets us apart is our ability to achieve high-speed control, a feat that few competitors can match. While others may offer similar functionality, their performance tends to be lower in comparison. As a toolmaker, we provide high-performance development tools that are not readily available from other manufacturers. This distinction positions us as leaders in our field.
The National Testing Organization in China and South Korea relies on tools like our pMOTION, particularly in specialized and niche fields.
An area where motors are seeing a drastic change is in the automotive field. Cars are moving toward electrification and EVs, but with CASE specifically, cars are becoming more like computers on wheels. In fact, the cost share of electronic components in relation to the total value of the car is expected to grow by 35% by the year 2025. Furthermore, when it comes to electrification, there are many other challenges or specifications such as the need for EMS. How is your firm adapting to this shift in the automotive industry, and what opportunities does this new emphasis on electrification present to your firm?
While we acknowledge the growing emphasis on electric cars by larger companies, we have chosen a different path for our small company. We believe that there are ample opportunities beyond the electric vehicle sector that align with our strengths and capabilities. The markets for motors and batteries, for instance, still hold substantial potential.
In the Japanese automotive sector, we see promising avenues in the shipment market, industrial machinery, including vehicles like dump trucks manufactured by Komatsu or Kubota, construction equipment, and even the aviation industry. While our primary operations are in Japan, we have ventured into South Korea and China on a smaller scale. However, our aspirations extend further, with plans to expand our presence into Europe and North America.
We are committed to making steady strides in our domestic market, particularly in areas such as motor variations, inverters, and control systems. We firmly believe that through dedicated and rigorous efforts, we can evolve into a stronger and more competitive company. This strategic focus allows us to complement the endeavors of other companies focusing on other areas.
Can you elaborate on your strategy in order to penetrate potential areas for growth in the future, like Europe and America? Will you be looking to take advantage of local partners in order to understand local markets and further expand into a particular region?
We engage in hardware environment testing within the aviation sector, and our approach extends to the automotive industry as well. In automotive testing, we bring our equipment and systems into cars to assess their performance. Similarly, when testing inverters, we integrate them into trains to conduct evaluations. Interestingly, I have a background in mechanical engineering, particularly in the realm of trains.
There are manufacturers who create a simulation environment with the technology called HILS, which isn't completely an emulation or simulation system. Rather, it's a combination of real and simulation environments.
We have already established a partnership with an American company named Typhoon HIL. By deepening our collaborations with testing environment companies like Typhoon HIL, we can further expand our presence in this field.
Our focus revolves around testing motors, which are not the final products themselves. In the automotive industry, car manufacturers aim to ensure that the vehicle's motor functions optimally. If an issue arises, they need to test the entire car, which is a complex undertaking. In the hardware-in-the-loop system, for example, half of the inverter is real, and the other half is a simulation environment. Successful testing confirms the car is in good condition.
Moreover, looking ahead, we recognize the importance of a robust sales strategy. Unlike selling standard computers, our products require thorough explanation and the ability to address customer inquiries effectively. This is a specialized skill set that not everyone possesses, posing a unique challenge. Expanding our network of collaborative partnerships could greatly benefit our business, enabling us to reach a broader audience and provide the necessary support.
In some instances, we work closely with sales partners to visit clients and explain how our products are used. Given that our customers are often developing cutting-edge products not yet on the market, trust is paramount. Confidentiality is a significant concern, as these new products may only become available in the coming years. Therefore, we rely on partners we can trust with highly sensitive information to ensure the success of these collaborations.
In addition to train motors and automobiles, the applications of your products extend to the fields of energy, batteries, home appliances and many more. Are there any new applications or industries to which you would like to introduce your products?
Another notable trend in the transportation sector is the emergence of eVTOL vehicles, often referred to as EV taxis or flying taxis. Given that our products are utilized for technologies that may hit the market in several years or even decades, this is an area where we intend to place significant emphasis. Furthermore, we are exploring opportunities in high-power applications for ships and airplanes. These industries demand motors that are not only powerful but also lighter, smaller, and more efficient. In this regard, our pMOTION technology stands out as a valuable asset.
As a part of the pCUBE series, you released a new regenerative DC power supply battery emulator that can test power supplies for evaluating lithium-ion batteries and all-solid-state batteries. What was the motivation to introduce this product to the pCUBE series?
High-speed control is a technology that truly sets Myway apart from the competition. Our unique technology takes precise control over DC, effectively mitigating the ripples generated by the inverter.
When switching occurs in battery inverters, it introduces certain current ripples that can significantly influence both the lifespan and performance of the battery. Manufacturers must gain a deep understanding of how these current ripples impact the batteries. Here, our system excels, as it can replicate emulated current ripples spanning from 0 hertz to 30 kHz. This remarkable capability is exclusive to Myway.
Ultra-fast operation, boasting a remarkable response time of just 1 millisecond from 10% to 90%, becomes particularly significant in the context of electric vehicles (EVs). In EVs, the current experiences rapid surges as speed accelerates and subsequently recedes as speed decreases. It is crucial to comprehend the impact of these high-speed fluctuations on the battery, as this knowledge is essential for optimizing both EV performance and battery life.
Another standout feature of our technology is its ability to measure impedance, a crucial parameter for determining the battery's lifespan. Products from other manufacturers can handle simple control, but our products are required for high-speed control.
As a foreign founder of a Japanese company, what was your motivation behind starting Myway in Japan, considering you hail from Guangzhou in China?
When I started my journey as an entrepreneur 30 years ago, I faced the choice of venturing to China or the United States. At that time, I didn't have enough financial resources. China was primarily emphasizing low-tech industries to generate revenue and establish factories. However, I not only lacked the financial means but also had no interest in pursuing low-tech products.
Since I had the technology, I had to choose whether to stay in Japan or go to the US. Instead of pursuing the American dream, I decided to chase the Japanese dream through my technological expertise. My decision was influenced by my deep appreciation for Japan, a country with many qualities that resonated with me.
Imagine we come back in five years for your 35th anniversary and have this interview all over again. What would you like to tell us? What are your dreams for this company, and what goals would you like to accomplish over the next five years to come?
I'm currently 60 years old and don't plan to remain as the company's president for much longer. As I age, I've noticed some challenges with memory, which is why I aim to retire by the age of 65. I would like to retire at the age of 65. However, before I step down, there are a few key goals I'd like to accomplish. I want our company to be listed and find my successor.
We take pride in our outstanding products and technology. In terms of market size, we currently rank as the fourth player in our field. I'm confident that we are on track to move up to the third position soon. Yet, my ultimate ambition is for us to become the industry leader, achieving JPY 12 billion in sales.
I draw inspiration from Mr. Inamori's philosophy, the founder of Kyocera. One of my core priorities is the well-being and happiness of our employees. To further this mission, I've implemented a program where a portion of my earnings or shares are distributed to our staff. By taking the company public, our employees can also reap the benefits of this initiative through enhanced remuneration.