The battery technology that powers electric vehicles is crucial to guarantee buyers a functional vehicle that will solve their mobility needs in the same way as combustion vehicles have done up to now. In addition to reliability, the market demands range, the fastest possible charging times, low maintenance costs and safety. The search is therefore on for a replacement for the liquid electrolyte batteries that have been used in industry up to now. Solid electrolytes are the ideal candidates as they meet all of the above requirements.
Toyota has its own pace in the race among firms to bring a full range of electric vehicles to market. Earlier this year, what is now the world’s largest automaker by volume announced a “technological breakthrough” for solid-state batteries. Not only was it a new battery based on this technology, it was also an attempt to address the durability challenges required of batteries that must withstand hundreds of thousands of kilometers without degrading excessively.
An ‘unexpected’ partner for making the world’s best batteries
Idemitsu Kosan is Japan’s second largest oil refiner. It owns a stake in Delta Lithium, an Australian company specializing in the extraction and processing of lithium mining. The oil giant has become deeply involved in electric vehicle battery supply chains and now presents an agreement with Toyota with an eye on the future of solid electrolyte.
According to the statement issued by both companies, the goal is to bring next-generation batteries to market by 2027-2028. The program will then continue with large-scale mass production. If all goes according to plan, these new batteries could power Toyota’s electric vehicles before the end of this decade.
The performance of these electric cars would be far beyond that of the current generation: a range of 1,200 km and recharge times of just 10 minutes. One of the biggest obstacles to this technology is the costs associated with its development and production. Although its advantages are obvious, its high price could hinder its market launch.
What is Toyota’s solid electrolyte like?
The collaboration between the two companies focuses on the development of solid sulfide electrolytes that are distinguished by their softness and adhesiveness and have already demonstrated their potential for high energy capacity and high performance in electric vehicles. All of these qualities make them ideal candidates for mass production of batteries. The initial stage will focus on the basic development of a large pilot facility in which to test the production process on a small scale.
Later stages will delve into mass production, using this same plant. Toyota will then incorporate them into its electric vehicles. The final step will be the thorough exploration of full-scale production and commercialization.
Toyota’s ‘other’ batteries.
“We are determined to lead the world market in batteries,” said Chief Technology Officer Hiroki Nakajima a few months ago. “We will need various options for batteries, just as we have different propulsion systems. It is important that these batteries are compatible with any type of model.” Keiji Kaita, president of Toyota’s Advanced Engineering Development Center, was revealing five new battery variants that would be available for deployment toward the end of this decade. The first, in 2026, will be next-generation lithium-ion batteries: 1,000 km range, 20% cheaper and recharging from 10% to 80% in less than 20 minutes.
Bipolar lithium iron phosphate batteries will follow in 2026 or 2027. They will increase range by 20% and reduce costs by 40%. In 2028, a nickel-based breakthrough will come that will improve range by 10% and cost 10% less.
In parallel, Toyota will develop these solid electrolyte batteries available by 2027 or 2028 with 20% more range than the 2026 lithium-ion batteries, implying a capacity of 1,200 km.
Finally, Toyota foresees a second generation of solid batteries after 2028 that will provide 50% more range, which means, in practice, reaching up to 1,500 km of autonomy. They will give rise to a new line of next-generation electric vehicles that are already being developed from a blank sheet of paper from the recently created BEV Factory division.