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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