Toyota Warms to Li-ion batteries

Toyota engineers are claiming to have made a major advancement in the taming of the otherwise volatile lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and can now more safely get more out of them and all at no extra cost. This will give the Japanese automaker even greater options in entering the all-electric car market.

Most other EV manufacturers, such as Tesla and Nissan, have already adopted the Li-ion battery as the logical electric power more than a decade ago, but it has not been without its problems and thus Toyota held back due to the chief concerns of cost, size and safety. As Samsung found out recently with its phones and Boeing with the smoking Dreamliner, Li-ion batteries can be incendiary and worse of all, they are very hard to douse once they start to burn. Both companies may be wishing that they had followed Toyota and taken a bit more time to adopt the technology.

To date, Toyota seemed to be going the road less travelled and developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. This latest announcement though will surely mean that Toyota is going to be diving headlong into the Li-ion end of the low emission market to produce all-electric passenger vehicles, perhaps even to the point where they put the hydrogen fuel cells firmly into the too-hard basket; although, for now, FCV’s are still the declared future for Toyota.

Toyota has already announced that it will produce a new version of the Prius, called the Prius Prime, that will feature the new batteries, which of course is sure to be much loved by the hemp-trouser-wearing brigade, particularly in California. Safety is the key, though, and producing a cell that is free of impurities is imperative – even a microscopic metal impurity can trigger a meltdown. The new batteries which are produced by Panasonic Co., the same peeps that make the batteries for Tesla, are said to be made in an almost-clean room environment.

The cost of the new battery will also be key to the future. Experts are saying that the cost of a battery has fallen almost 60% in the past five years to about US$145 per kilowatt hour, due to the larger factories that are coming online to manufacture them. However, much of the cost is being off-set by the additional technology that has to be packed into the battery to stop the potential for meltdown.

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