Battery series: Toyota has mastered the use of lithium-ion batteries and solid-state batteries

For specific reasons, Toyota is known as a rebel against the all-electric revolution, and is keen to maintain its strong influence on hybrids. However, the Japanese giant has ramped up its investments in electric vehicles and batteries following electrification goals announced by new CEO, Koji Sato, in April, who may have heard enough from environmental groups to jump on the EV bandwagon by then. . But Toyota is already working on introducing new electric cars, developing batteries, and focusing on alternative fuels.

In August 2022, Toyota added a battery production line at the Ishihama plant to produce bipolar nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. With the Kiwa plant starting manufacturing in May 2021, Toyota has a production capacity of 40,000 units per month. Toyota Industries developed the world’s first bipolar NiMH with Toyota Motor Corporation, and it was first used in the Toyota Aqua, which was launched in July 2021. Toyota’s upgraded version is the follow-up to the cylindrical NiMH that was first used in the Toyota Prius, which It was created in 1997 and has swept the plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) market for many years, helping Toyota reach 15 million PHEV sales as of April 2020.

The battery innovation is the “bipolar electrodes” stacked to form a battery. This technology relies on a metal component, a ‘current collector’, which enables the cathode and anode to be placed together, allowing for smaller batteries containing less material. The structure allows larger currents to flow more quickly, bypassing conventional NiMH batteries. Bipolar NiMH is used in the Lexus RX (launched June 2022) and Toyota Crown (launched July 2022). According to Auto News, the new bipolar battery holds 1.4 times more battery cells in the same space than the old battery and provides 1.5 times the output.

Toyota is expected to launch high-performance and popular versions of two new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) after unveiling new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in 2026. By addressing a wide range of customers, as in the hybrid strategy, Toyota plans to develop performance and popular versions of new batteries, increasing range by up to 20% and reducing costs by up to 40%. The next step will be solid-state batteries (SSBs).

Nickel-hydrogen bipolar battery. Source: Toyota.

Photo: Toyota.

What is the timeline until 2030?

In June 2023, Toyota announced its plans for new generation electric vehicles and battery technologies, along with new manufacturing technologies under the slogan “Let’s change the future of cars.” The announcement included BEV’s new in-house development centre, the BEV Factory, and provided a timeline of planned developments.

Sato said in May that the Japanese giant would invest an additional trillion yen (about 6.4 billion euros) in new electric vehicle models and production by the end of 2030. In the June announcement, Toyota said it had transferred more than half of its research and development staff. About half of its R&D expenses go to advanced development areas and it will follow this trend in the future.

The timeline of announced developments appeared as follows:

2025: Toyota Battery Manufacturing North Carolina (TBMNC), which has received a total investment of $5.6 billion to date, will begin producing batteries for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
Toyota’s largest manufacturing facility in Georgetown, Kentucky, will manufacture Subaru’s three-row electric SUV starting in 2025 (bZ5X).
2026: A full range of battery electric cars will be launched. The next generation of battery-powered electric cars will be introduced this year with a range of about 620 miles (1,000 km). A square battery is being developed to enhance the performance of this battery-powered vehicle and those that follow. The battery will have a higher energy density, while costs will be 20% lower than the only current BEV model in North America, the bZ4X. Charging from 10% to 80% will take less than 20 minutes.
2026-2027: The bipolar structure battery will be applied to battery electric vehicles using low cost lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry. The goal is to increase range by 20%, reduce costs by 40% and allow rapid charging from 10% to 80% in less than 30 minutes, compared to the current bZ4X.
2027-2028: A high-performance version of the bipolar lithium-ion battery will be used, combining a bipolar structure with a high-nickel cathode, and is expected to outperform the performance version of the square battery pack by 10% and reduce costs by 10%. Fast charging up to 80% will take less than 20 minutes.
Solid-state batteries (SSBs) are expected to be commercialized to have a 20% range improvement over the square battery performance version and fast charge up to 80% in less than 10 minutes. Toyota will continue to look into SSBs to achieve a 50% range improvement over the performance version of the square battery to reach a range of 900 miles (1,450 km) after 2028.
2030: The battery-powered electric car factory will produce 1.7 million units of battery-powered electric cars out of 3.5 million.

Toyota SSB model. Source: Toyota.

Advanced manufacturing processes

Like all other major automakers, Toyota is developing advanced manufacturing technologies to prepare for the fierce competition of the growing electric vehicle industry:

  • One technology emerging in future production processes is giga-casting, reminiscent of Tesla’s giga-press. Toyota aims to “achieve high productivity, through integrated molding of ideal shapes.”
  • Another goal is to eliminate the conveyor in assembly lines and introduce technology that allows cars to move from one process to another independently.
  • Finally, aligning new methods, such as assembly lines and self-driving assembly lines, with digitalization by adapting connected and autonomous technologies, will transform traditional manufacturing into digital manufacturing.

Toyota has impressive plans, but its electric vehicle goal may still lag slightly behind its competitors. Tesla plans to produce about 20 million electric cars by 2030, while Volkswagen Group’s target is 8 million, compared to Toyota’s 1.7 million.

Photo: Toyota.

If you want to check out the first articles in the series, here they are:
Battery series: How does Tesla want to maintain global leadership?
Battery Series: What does BYD have on the list?
Battery series: Volkswagen to enhance performance through dry coating

The main image shows a Toyota bZ4X, courtesy of Toyota.

(Tags for translation) Toyota

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