Regardless of one’s views on climate change and oil consumption, automakers like Toyota have realized that most car buyers appreciate increased fuel efficiency. They are interested in the reduced impact on the environment, a concept first highlighted by the automaker when it released the Prius in the U.S. in 2000. Other carmakers have focused on all-electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. Toyota is taking its time, determined to get it right the first time.
Battery Tech Is Still Lagging for Many Vehicles
The Toyota Prius Prime is the most advanced example of battery technology in the Japanese carmaker’s arsenal and gets up to 133 MPGe, second best in the U.S., according to Green Car Reports. Part of that is likely because, as the publication notes, it runs solely on electric power to start. Most other plug-in hybrids start with the gasoline motor and the batteries kick in later, and at low speeds.
One problem Toyota is facing is that in order to reach the admittedly high standards set by the Prius family, and even its Mirai FCV, it must first deal with battery technology that is years out of date. The lithium-ion batteries in use across every industry are similar to the ones found in laptops from the early 1990s.
Toyota Takes Individual Approach to Maximizing Battery Benefits
While the Japanese carmaker has not decided to avoid all-electric vehicles, it has focused on ensuring that each element, from drivetrain to battery, matches customer demands. One particularly important development is in the design of the battery. It uses different ionic compounds than other batteries; this means engineers can watch the flow of ions and energy while the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is already in use.
Batteries discharge energy as these ions travel from one side of the element to the other. However, to increase capacity, the two rods that they move between must allow for some “clumping.” This would be comparable to a group of children running from one sideline of a field to another. Eventually, they start running into each other or forming clumps, just like the ions.
This advancement in the research process gives Toyota’s designers the ability to see how changes in designs impact efficiency. This process, backed by a few years of effort, should ensure that any all-electric vehicles launched by Toyota in 2020 or beyond should be leaders in efficiency and performance.