Senior managing director in charge of battery technology, Toyota Motor Corp.
Chosen because: Kobuki, 61, has spent much of his nearly four-decade career at Toyota in powertrain development, so it's only natural that now he would be focusing on the most important part of an electric powertrain, the battery. While many of Toyota's competitors are pitching their vehicles' lithium ion batteries, Kobuki says nickel-metal hydride batteries are still better for hybrids. Lithium ion batteries work best in plug-in hybrids or pure electric vehicles, he says. Though Toyota is best known for its hybrid Prius, Kobuki is looking past hybrids nowadays. He's working on reducing the cost of the fuel cell stack before Toyota launches a fuel cell vehicle in 2015.
Quote: "The improved efficiency from converting to lithium ion batteries from nickel-metal hydride is at best 1 percent to 2 percent in the vehicle's performance."