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Toyota Accelerates Switch To Lithium-Ion Batteries, Still Lags Others

 
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2012 Toyota NS4 plug-in hybrid concept

2012 Toyota NS4 plug-in hybrid concept

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Toyota is one of few automakers still using nickel-metal hydride batteries in its hybrid vehicles, but that could change for its next generation vehicles.

Reuters reports that the company aims to boost production of more common lithium-ion technology by six times for its future products.

Toyota has intended to use lithium-ion batteries before, including in its big-selling Prius hybrid.

However, the company admitted in 2010 that it had looked into the wrong sort of lithium-ion chemistry when developing the third-generation Prius, and came to the conclusion it would be uneconomical to produce.

Instead, the company used the same nickel-based batteries it used in previous generations of the Prius, and uses across virtually its whole lineup of hybrid vehicles.

The next-generation Prius is expected to move to lithium-ion batteries, though Toyota has not yet confirmed the rumors.

Lithium-ion batteries have become more common in recent years for their lightness and energy density compared to nickel batteries.

Toyota already offers the Prius V with lithium batteries in some markets, though U.S. versions still use nickel packs. Other hybrids, such as the 2013 Honda CR-Z coupe, have recently moved from nickel packs to lithium.

Toyota and Panasonic Corp. will build a new $194 million production line to produce the extra lithium batteries, with capacity of 200,000 units per year.

That does suggest that not every Toyota hybrid will use the new lithium batteries, however--since Toyota sold 1.2 million hybrids in 2012 alone.

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Comments (9)
  1. So I wonder what format these batteries will be. The most common for BEVs is the flat pack. Tesla buys small cylindrical batteries from Panasonic. Once this plant gets going, maybe Tesla will switch to the flat pack.
     
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  2. Tesla uses the 18650s for economy of scale and testing since they're so widely used in many different products. However, I'd hope that if they end up converting to prismatic cells, they'd do so when newer, higher-density battery tech is production-ready.

    IMO it would make sense for them to standardize on the external formfactor, mounts, attach points, etc. and then build out the battery within those constraints, to enable better scale and upgrades/replacements for older vehicles in the future.
     
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  3. Toyota has been cold in public when speaking about the topic of EV's or Lithium Ion batteries. But my best guess is that they are still privately working on both and perfecting them too. I think in a few more years time we will see the fruits of their efforts come forth in a vehicle very similar to the NS-4 Plug-in Hybrid pictured above. If that is indeed a mass-market Plug-in priced in Camry territory, then we are probably looking at a game changer. Imagine a 100 mpg meat of the market PHEV sedan priced in the high 20's or low 30's. That would be the kind of car that would keep the other car makers up at night.
     
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  4. I wanted to add that I am not an apologist for Toyota by any means either. But I just don't buy Toyota's cold stance toward EV's and PHEV's. I refuse to believe that noone is working on these technologies in Toyota labs. I believe sooner or later the news will break of a serious Toyota Plug-in coming to market. Stay tuned I guess.
     
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  5. 100mpg"e" instead of 100mpg.

    Now, Toyota is invested in Tesla and already offering an EV built by Tesla. So, in a way, Toyota has "outsourced" its EV design to Tesla. Not a bad choice.
     
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  6. I'm not sure what the fuss is. I have a Toyota Camry Hybrid with the NiMh batteries and it works just fine. Lithium Ion batteries have had some problems and still have one major one - they don't last as long NiMh batteries do. Plus you still have to run the gas engine to charge whatever kind of battery you have so you won't save any gas.

    The only application that makes sense is a plug-in hybrid and that is a small portion of hybrid market. I would think that 200k batteries would be enough for their need for the foreseeable future.
     
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  7. "Lithium Ion batteries have had some problems and still have one major one - they don't last as long NiMh batteries do"

    I am NOT sure where you get this statement from... There are many different type of Li-ion batteries out there. I don't think a blank statement like that is correct.

    NiMH has some advantage and disadvantages. NiMH has better temperature range comparing to Li-ion and it is cheaper. But peak power, charging speed, energy density, power density and power to weight ratio are all in favor of Li-ion. Not to mention better discharging curve.
     
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  8. Just a reminder that the Prius Plug In uses a Li-ion battery.
     
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  9. Can't wait to check out the turbocharged lean burn engine and part time AWD of the next Prius. I wonder if it could compete against Subaru's VX Crosstek AWD hybrid in terms of traction.
     
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