By October 27, 2017 Read More →

Toyota scrambles to ready solid-state battery for EVs

solid-state battery

Toyota says the solid-state battery technology will increase range and safety as well as cut manufacturing costs for EVs. Toyota image.

Solid-state battery offers more capacity, better safety

Toyota is feverishly working to solve remaining issues with its solid-state battery technology, which the company hopes will help cut costs of building electric cars.

The solid-state batteries are high-capacity energy storage devices that will better lithium-ion batteries, and replace the liquid or gel-form electrolyte with a solid, conductive material.

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Benefits of the technology are more capacity and increased safety.

“There are a few next-generation battery technologies we’re looking at, and the most promising is an all solid-state battery,” Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada told Reuters during an interview ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show.

“We’re scrambling to finish developing this technology, but a few issues still remain as we try to mass produce this.”  The Japanese automaker is looking to introduce a line of electric vehicles in the first half of the 2020s.

Uchiyamada, known as the “Father of the Prius” says Toyota has developed the technology to produce batteries with a longer life.  But, he says the company has yet to figure out how to mass produce them for a mainstream car that some drivers expect to drive for at least 200,000 Km.

According to a Reuters report, Uchiyamada would not say how long an EV battery should last before it needs to be replaced, but he dismissed a lifespan of only three years.

“Nobody would buy a car like that, if you had to replace the battery after just three years,” he said.

Despite these roadblocks, Toyota is confident it can complete the commercialization process for the solid-state battery technology.

“We believe our solid-state battery technology can be a game changer, with the potential to dramatically improve driving range,” Executive Vice President Didier Leroy told Reuters.

Toyota says solid-state batteries can double the capacity of lithium-ion technology and will allow EVs to travel further on a full charge.

Along with increasing an EV’s range, higher capacity solid-state batteries would also reduce manufacturing costs for electric vehicles’ battery propulsion system.  High battery capacity means the technology calls for less lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel or aluminum, which will decrease the overall size of an EV propulsion system.

“In automotive manufacturing, smaller and lighter generally means cheaper to produce,” another Toyota official told Reuters.

Should Toyota unlock the secret to commercial solid-state battery technology, electric battery cars could be as affordable as current gasoline-powered autos.  According to experts, this means the cost of producing a kilowatt hour of electricity needs to fall to about $100 from a little under $200/kWh, currently.

All automakers pursuing EVs are in scrambling to lower battery manufacturing costs to boost thin margins on battery-powered cars.

“We see this tipping point around 2025,” says Nissan Motor Co 7210.T Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci.

As well, solid-state batteries will likely be safer.  Conventional lithium-ion batteries with a liquid or gel-like electrolyte can leak and may ignite should they short-circuit and overheat. Uchiyamada says the risks are reduced in solid-state batteries.

Car designers have more flexibility to create more space for passengers or storage as solid-state batteries don’t need to be layered closely together and linked by electric connectors.

“I’d say that’s fairly revolutionary, and I‘m sure others are looking at solid-state lithium-ion battery technology to break out of the pack and come up with a safer and more potent energy storage technology,” Uchiyamada said.

The Father of the Prius believes that to replace gasoline cars, automakers will have to offer both electric vehicles and those powered by hydrogen fuel-cells.

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