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Toyota has unveiled ambitions to halve the size, cost and weight of batteries for its electric vehicles following a breakthrough in its solid-state battery technology.
The Japanese carmaker’s top battery expert said on Tuesday that simplifying the production process for battery materials would bring down the cost of its long-awaited next-generation technology.
“For both our liquid and solid-state batteries, we are aiming to drastically change the situation where current batteries are too big, heavy and expensive,” said Keiji Kaita, president of Toyota’s research and development centre for carbon neutrality. “In terms of potential, we will aim to halve all of these factors.”
The comments come after the world’s largest carmaker by sales surprised investors last month with plans to commercialise its solid-state battery technology in an electric vehicle by 2027 at the earliest. Toyota is also working on the technology with Panasonic through their joint battery venture.
Solid-state batteries have long been heralded by industry experts as the most promising technology to solve EV battery problems such as charging time, capacity and the risk of catching fire. They replace a liquid electrolyte with a solid one and use lithium metal at the anode instead of graphite, the current standard in lithium-ion batteries.
But the technology remains expensive and difficult to produce, forcing carmakers to push back its launch and focus their efforts in developing liquid-based lithium-ion batteries.
Toyota initially said it wanted to start selling hybrid but not electric cars with solid-state batteries before 2025.
But on Tuesday, Kaita said the company discovered ways to address the durability problems from about three years ago and now had enough confidence to mass-produce solid-state batteries in electric vehicles by 2027 or 2028.
Toyota claimed it had made a “technological breakthrough” to resolve durability issues and “a solution for materials” that would allow an electric vehicle powered by a solid-state battery to have a range of 1,200km and charging time of 10 minutes or less.
“All of our members are highly motivated and are working with the intention to definitely launch” the technology by the promised timeline, said Kaita.
By reducing the number of processes required to make battery materials, the cost of solid-state batteries could be lowered to similar or cheaper levels than liquid-based lithium-ion batteries, he added.
For Toyota, which has been slower than rivals to roll out electric vehicles, analysts said solid-state batteries could be a “game-changer” to narrow the gap with Tesla.
Shares in Toyota have risen by 13 per cent since the company announced its solid-state batteries plan last month. But Hiroki Nakajima, its chief technology officer, cautioned that the company did not necessarily see the technology as “the ultimate solution” for battery challenges.
“There is also room for improvement for liquid-based batteries,” Nakajima said. “The crux of the EV battery competition will ultimately be the value added on the car as a product and how much we can control the overall volume of batteries and how effectively we can use them.”