Toyota says new batteries are safe enough
IT is not just Shaun Abrahams who made a sharp U-turn this month.
Toyota now says it can make electric cars that will last almost as long as its internal combustion engines.
Koji Toyoshima, the chief engineer for the latest Prius, told Reuters at the launch of the new Prius in the U.S. that the Japanese car giant has now tamed the volatile lithium-ion battery technology to pack more power safely at no significant extra cost.
Reuters quoted Toyoshima as saying: “Developing lithium-ion batteries for both hybrids and plug-ins will enable us to also produce all-electric cars in the future.”
Rivals like Tesla Motors and Nissan, who adopted lithiumion battery technology nearly a decade ago, will be very interested in Toyoshima’s use of the little word “will”.
As a very conservative company, Toyota has to date preferred to focus on hydrogen as a source of power, despite this boiling down (pun intented) to making electricity to store hydrogen to make electricity, because of concerns over the cost, size and unproven safety levels of batteries.
Reuters reports that lithium-ion batteries can be unstable and they have been blamed for incendiary Samsung smartphones and smoking Dreamliner airplanes.
Having Toyota endorse lithium-ion will be a fillip for the developing technology and it gives the automaker the option to produce for an allelectric passenger-car market, which it has avoided, preferring to put its heft behind the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs).
Toyota says its Prius Prime, a soon-to-be-launched plugin electric version of the world’s top-selling petrol hybrid, will use lithium-ion batteries with enough energy to make the car go about 60 kms when fully charged before the petrol engine kicks in. Because of different methodology in measuring a car’s electric mode range, the Prime’s 60 km range will be listed in the U.S. as around 40 km.
“It’s a tall order to develop a lithium-ion car battery that can perform reliably and safely for 10 years, or over hundreds of thousands of kilometres,” said Toyoshima.
“We have double braced and triple braced our battery pack to make sure they’re failsafe ... It’s all about safety, safety, safety,” he said.
Toyota’s confidence in its battery’s safety and stability comes from improved control technology that monitors precisely the temperature and condition of each of the 95 cells in its new battery pack.
Working with battery supplier Panasonic Corp, which also produces Li-ion batteries for Tesla, Toyota has also improved the precision in battery cell assembly, ensuring the battery chemistry is free of impurities.
Battery experts say increasingly sophisticated systems that can track individual cell conditions are becoming closely held trade secrets.
Lower battery prices, which have fallen by about 60% in five years to around $145 (R1 958) per kilowatt hour, have also enabled Toyota to develop its more compact, efficient battery, while adding more sophisticated controls to its battery pack, Toyoshima said.
Toyota declined to say more on its costs. — Reuters.
The new Prius heralds a move by Toyota towards electric cars and their batteries.