TodayApril 15, 2022

Breakthrough on Toyota battery for Electric Vehicle

Paul Williamsen, Strategic Communications, Lexus International confirmed that Toyota is near a technological breakthrough for electric car batteries.

Toyota is near a breakthrough for electric car batteries

I was working, via email, with Williamsen on the difference between Li-Ion batteries and NiMH batteries in the Toyota Prius. I had asked why they used both in the Prius. I got an email saying that it was public knowledge (along with a couple of articles) that Toyota is near a technological breakthrough for electric car batteries.

Why is it taking Toyota so long to bring out an EV battery?

On Toyota’s website, the make-up of a battery is explained, “Batteries are made up of three main components: an ANODE (-), a CATHODE (+), and between them, and ELECTROLYTE. Electrons move between the anode and the cathode through the external circuit, while ions are transported through the electrolyte to balance the charge. Different metal combinations require different electrolytes that must efficiently allow the movement of ions while not corroding the anode and cathode.”

Toyota Develops TNGA-based Powertrain Units - Lithium-ion Battery
Toyota Develops TNGA-based Powertrain Units – Lithium-ion Battery

Williamsen sent me an email, “With regard to the pace of lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery technologies replacing nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) in Toyota Motor Corp (TMC) hybrid vehicles (HVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel-cell hybrid vehicles (FCHVs), in general terms the Toyota and Lexus engineering and product development teams of TMC are working to develop and introduce to the market the highest power-density, most cost-effective technologies appropriate to HVs, BEVs & FCHVs.”

Williamsen explained why Toyota seemed to be taking longer to bring its batteries to market, “TMC endeavors to own as much of the intellectual property of our vehicles as possible, especially in the case of EVs, HVs & FCHVs. This means that we develop, test, and produce our technologies at our own pace. From speaking with our engineers, I believe that our standards for durability testing of such components (including batteries) may be more strict than those of other makers of automobiles or consumer electronics.”

Toyota’s battery for Electric Vehicles (EV)

Toyota Develops TNGA-based Powertrain Units - Nickel-metal Hydride Battery
Toyota Develops TNGA-based Powertrain Units – Nickel-metal Hydride Battery

The second-largest carmaker by sales in the world is the company that has the most advanced batteries on the road. Most of them are Nickel Metal Hydride, but Toyota is bringing out more products, including an electric car for China, which will require denser batteries. An article by the Wall Street Journal reports that “The technology, a solid electrolyte, would enable smaller, lighter lithium-ion batteries, which theoretically could hold a higher charge — boosting the range of electric vehicles, according to the company.”

Can newer Li-Ion batteries replace older NiMH batteries?

It’s a question that has been asked many times. Williamsen talked about the challenges of exchanging a Li-Ion battery for a NiMH battery in a car that is already on the road, “It’s worth noting that due to differences in packaging, cooling requirements, power-density, charge/discharge parameters, overall lifecycle, and other factors, Li-Ion batteries are generally not a direct replacement for an existing NiMH battery package. Other system components, wiring, controllers, and software likely also have to change. The roll-out of such technology thus depends on which model is undergoing a major change or which powertrain is due for an overall generation change, not so much driven by price or segment.”

Which battery is most reliable?

Williamsen advises a buyer or shopper not to make a purchase decision based on the specific chemistry or metallurgy of components, but by looking at the historical record of reliability. In that sense, Toyota hybrids cannot be beaten. This is especially noticeable in the long durability of the systems and components of Prius & Camry hybrids in taxi service in cities around the world.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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