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Toyota demonstrates commitment to electric cars

By raccars Published

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Toyota is working on a better battery and setting up an in-house unit to hasten EV development.

Toyota is proving its commitment to electrification by announcing work on a more advanced battery and setting up its own EV-focused in-house division. The Toyota Motor Corp announced this week that it aims to create a more advanced battery in the space of ‘a few years’ to allow the car maker to develop vehicles with a 15 per cent increase in battery life and range.

Toyota battery technology researcher Hisao Yamashige said that lithium-ion battery technology is key in the electrification of cars, both now and in the future, and there is an obvious need to improve this technology going forward in order to improve performance.

Lithium-ion battery improvements are a major issue for both traditional manufacturers, including Toyota, and new market entrants such as Tesla. The technology has some limiting characteristics and there are currently problems with the way in which the ions move around and reduce battery life.

Toyota, the biggest manufacturer in Japan by volume, is already a pioneer of hybrid petrol-electric technology. It is set to launch its electric-heavy plug in hybrid, the Prius Prime in the near future. The company also has plans for a battery-operated, all-electric car within the next four years.

Lithium-ion research

Speaking at a media briefing, Yamashige said that Toyota had developed techniques as a result of a collaboration with four Japanese universities and a public-financed laboratory to look in ‘real time’ at the way in which lithium ions move around inside electrodes.

This should allow for the creation of new technology which addresses the uneven movement of lithium ions and prevents them from bunching together in electrodes. This sort of activity limits battery life as well as vehicle range and can add to problems with over-heating.

The news comes in the wake of an announcement that Toyota is setting up an in-house unit with a specific focus on the development of electric cars. Many experts see this as an endorsement of electrification, given that the rival technologies the company has pioneered have failed to gain market share as hoped.

Four-strong unit

The unit will be launched next month and will initially only be staffed by four people. It will, however, be tasked with the planning of a strategy for marketing and developing electric cars in a bid to keep up with ever-more-stringent global emissions regulations.

Toyota says that the unit will ultimately expand in numbers when necessary with designers, engineers and other members of different departments being called in to work on particular projects and ideas.

Toyota has focused heavily in the past on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) but has now announced that it would like the option of creation full-sized EVs. Toyota had previously said that its electric vehicles would be reserved for commuting over short-distances as a result of lengthy charging times and the cost of rechargeable batteries, in sharp contrast with the assertions of Tesla Motors, AG, Volkswagen and Nissan that EVs will become the most appropriate zero-emissions vehicles of the future.

The new unit will be initially made up of a representative from Toyota and three other group companies; Toyota Industries Corporation, Denso Corp and Aisin Seiki Co. Itsuki Kurosu, a Toyota spokesperson, said that the company had to respond quickly to keep up with rapidly changing regulations concerning lower emissions vehicles.

He added that the small unit would be nimble in terms of planning and the decision making necessary to hasten the development of electric cars. Toyota has vowed to have a complete fleet of essentially emissions-free vehicles by 2050.

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