Toyota: The LiOn Sleeps Tonight

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
toyota the lion sleeps tonight

GM is preparing (and preparing) to put its faith in some form of Lithium-ion batteries from some manufacturer at some point for its Hail Mary-shaped plug-in electric – gas hybrid Chevy Volt. Meanwhile, Noburu Kikuchi, the Director of Toyota’s NA Research Institute, says his employer isn’t abandoning ye olde nickel-metal-hydride battery anytime soon. “The auto maker’s goal is to begin selling 1 million HEVs annually in the next decade and to offer hybrid powertrains in every vehicle in its lineup in 2020-2030,” WardsAuto reports. But what percentage of those will be built with more advanced and still largely unproven Li-ion batteries, ‘I really can’t say… But in the near future, if you look at it realistically, we have accumulated so much technology in NiMH that simply giving up (on that) might not be a good idea.'” Does that sound, I dunno, realistic? Well, there’s more common sense after the jump.

“The RAV4 EVs (and E-com concept experimented with in Japan) were abandoned because they didn’t have a long-enough cruising range, cost too much and took too long to charge. There also was a lack of a dedicated charging infrastructure, he says, a situation that continues today. ‘The battery was not quite enough, so we had to give up,’ Kikuchi says. ‘But that doesn’t mean we gave up forever.'”

Far from it. In fact, Kikuchi promises more automotive goodness for that most magical of years… “He says work on a new generation of EVs has been accelerated and they’ll be on the market ‘in the near future,’ likely sometime around 2010.” But you already knew that, right?

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4 of 8 comments
  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Oct 21, 2008

    I call bullshit on anything saying the Li-Ion battery is more advanced. It's more complicated to be sure but advanced implies that it is a superior battery which it isn't. Read up on the NiMH battery here: And from Wikipedia again on Li-Ion batteries: "A unique drawback of the Li-ion battery is that its life span is dependent upon aging (shelf life). From time of manufacturing, regardless of whether it was charged or the number of charge/discharge cycles, the battery will decline slowly and predictably in capacity. This means an older battery will not last as long as a new battery due solely to its age, unlike other batteries. This drawback is not widely published." "High charge levels and elevated temperatures hasten permanent capacity loss for Lithium ion batteries." "Li-ion cells must never be discharged below a certain voltage to avoid the possibility of irreversible damage." "Li-ion batteries are not as durable as nickel metal hydride or nickel-cadmium designs and can be extremely dangerous if mistreated. They are usually more expensive." "The number of safety features can be compared with that of a nickel metal hydride cell, which only has a hydrogen/oxygen recombination device (preventing damage due to mild overcharging) and a back-up pressure valve." Does that seem like a good battery to put into an electric car which is going to see all sorts of different weather? Does it sound familiar as well? Sounds like a laptop battery which it is, that is often costs as much to replace as the street value of an older laptop. Sounds ALOT like planned obsolescence to me. Is GM setting up the EV to fail? Thanks but as much as I want an EV either the battery better get alot cheaper so I can afford to replace it in 5 years or we need to be talking about NiMH batteries. Can the gov't use eminent domain to take the patents? I swear it sounds like the powers that be want us to keep burning gasoline for the next 30 years even though with a good battery a Corolla sized EV commuter car makes the gasoline powered commuter car obsolete for alot of us consumers. The NiMH battery just works. Like for 150K+ miles. FWIW Toyota has a PR line that they feed everybody that makes the EV seem like a real loser. It isn't - just ask the RavEV owners. How many of you drive 100+ miles in your second car? Our first car doesn't even break 60 miles and that car goes to the next county every day. I don't see why the charge time is still an arguing point. I drive it to work, do some errands and drive it home. Once there I plug it in. In the morning way before I need it, the car is ready for another 100+ miles. It's like saying a week of standby isn't enough for a cellphone.

  • GeeDashOff GeeDashOff on Oct 21, 2008
    " I call bullshit on anything saying the Li-Ion battery is more advanced. It’s more complicated to be sure but advanced implies that it is a superior battery which it isn’t. " A123 systems lists their ANR26650M1 at 3000 W/kg. The product page doesn't list a spec for their 'automotive high density' battery, but its obviously larger. The wikipedia link lists NiMH at 1000 W/kg. at least 3 times more power per kilogram of battery is a (huge) plus to Lithium over NiMH even if there are other issues to work out.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Oct 22, 2008

    Okay - good point... Had missed that important point.

  • 2centsbook 2centsbook on Jul 07, 2009

    This is a great post, and more people need to be aware of the shortcomings of LiOn batteries. A great resource on the subject is a book written about Electric Cars specifically focusing on the NiMH batteries superiority, and the way it has been suppressed. I would highly recommend it. It's titled "Two Cents Per Mile" by Nevres Cefo... You can find it on amazon at Another great resource is a website which has letters you can send to political officials asking for the NiMH batteries to be released under eminent domain or compulsory licensing: Anyways, I'm glad to see people concerned and engaged with this topic.