What Is This and Why Was It In a Toyota Press Release?
Seriously folks, just why would this be in a press release?
Toyota recently announced a solid-state battery partnership and buried about half way down the page was this very curious photograph of a sand-like material in a vessel that looks like, well, not to put too fine a point on it, more like a butt plug than something you would find in an average car. (Read the official press release here.)
Worse still, the photo of the offending item is not exactly well explained either, except for the fact that Toyota expect to be marketing the next generation battery that is expected to be able to create a range of 9,00 kilometres on a single charge by 2027. So, it is a battery?
It is not the flask that is important in the photo apparently, but the material inside the oddly shaped beaker. According to the release, it is a lithium sulphide to be used as a solid-state electrolyte, essential of course for solid-state batteries, which unlike the liquid ones used in the soon-to-be old-school Li-ion batteries, does not need flammable liquids to work.
One of the holy grails of the automotive industry is to come up with a safer battery technology which charges faster, has greater capacity and does not have the tendency to turn your ride into a bonfire should you be so careless as to mistreat the batteries in any way.
To date, no one has managed to achieve a workable solid-state battery that can be charged multiple times, which is of course a problem, and there may be more problems ahead with it. The European Transportation and Environment Agency believes that the solid-state battery will take at least 35% more lithium to manufacture than the standard Li-ion ones do. Prices for lithium have already spiked over 150% in the past year and a global shortage of the material is already predicted.
The development of the battery is a joint effort with Idemitsu Kosan Oil company, but naturally the slight problem with lithium supply was not mentioned by either company in the joint release. Strangely, neither company seemed to notice the butt plug shaped device on the communique. Still at least you will be able to plug it in.
“Pear-shaped flasks are used for evaporating solutions to dryness post-synthesis using a rotary evaporator, the ’rounded V’ shape of the flasks enables solid materials to be scraped out more efficiently than from a round-bottomed flask.” Also, when collecting liquids using a syringe, it’s easier with the pear-shape! So now you know.