Japanese auto giant, Toyota, has announced a significant breakthrough in solid-state battery technology, positioning itself to revolutionise the electric vehicle (EV) market.
The company, which is the world’s largest by number of vehicles sold, claims its innovative batteries will be half the cost, size, and weight of current lithium-ion batteries, while also offering a remarkable 20% improvement in cruising range.
Cruising range refers to a steady state of driving, such as on a motorway, as opposed to stop-start driving due to heavy traffic in a city. This is because motorway driving offers little opportunity for the battery to recharge, while city driving allows for small incremental regenerative charging.
Keiji Kaita, who leads Toyota’s research and development centre for carbon neutrality, said: “For both our liquid and our solid-state batteries, we are aiming to drastically change the situation where current batteries are too big, heavy, and expensive.
“In terms of potential, we will aim to halve all of these factors.”
According to Toyota, its “technological breakthrough” will resolve durability issues, allowing an EV powered by a solid-state battery to have a range of 1,200 km (745 miles) and a charging time of 10 minutes or less.
Despite this breakthrough, Toyota has previously claimed that going fully EV is a “bad” business decision, but also bad for the environment, owing to the fact that resource limitations are to blame. This opinion had led to Toyota shareholders protesting the company’s EV stance with votes to oust long-time leader from the board.
Toyota’s announcement has already had a significant impact on the market, with the company’s shares rising by 10% since the unveiling of its solid-state battery plan last month. However, Hiroki Nakajima, the company’s chief technology officer, stated the automaker 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.
Solid-state batteries have long been hailed by industry experts as the most promising solution to address EV battery challenges such as charging time, capacity, and fire risk. According to a report by IDTechEx, the market for batteries could exceed $6 billion (£4.7bn) by 2030.
Toyota’s announcement of a solid-state vehicle should be met with caution. The carmaker has a history of announcing such vehicles, only to delay their release.
Battery storage to tackle climate change
As the world transitions to a low-carbon energy system, batteries are becoming increasingly important for balancing the grid and storing energy from renewable sources. This is because batteries can store energy during peak generation and release it when production is low, helping to ensure that the grid is always reliable.
In the past, this balancing role has been played by fossil fuels and renewable energy. However, batteries are a cleaner and more sustainable alternative and are also becoming more affordable and efficient, making them a more attractive option for grid operators on the path to net zero.
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