Toyota Secretly Tested-and Rejected-Li-Ion Batteries

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Bloomberg reports that Toyota spent the last three years secretly testing lithium-ion batteries for its hybrid Prius, then rejected them as unsuitable. And they still don’t want to talk about it. “Toyota last month ended road tests of 126 Priuses in the U.S., Japan and Europe that began in 2006, Jana Hartline, a company spokeswoman said in an interview [with someone somewhere at some point]. Details of the program, in which the cars’ nickel metal hydride batteries were replaced with more expensive lithium models, weren’t released.” [Point of information: that’s Priora.] Bloomberg fails to make the obvious contrast with GM’s public trials (sans gas engine) and tribulations (say hello to my little bankruptcy) vis à vis its electric/gas plug-in hybrid Hail Mary, the . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . Volt. But they do kinda hint at it . . .

The tests appear to be among the most thorough done by companies planning to introduce the batteries, said Menahem Anderman, president of consulting firm Advanced Automotive Batteries in Oregon House, California.

Ouch! So, anyway, what did Toyota learn? Again, they ain’t talking. But Mr. Anderman is. “We now know that a lithium-ion battery can work; that’s not really the question,” Menahem theorizes (’cause ToMoCo ain’t talking). “Cost is critical, and we still don’t know enough about long-term durability.”

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • ZCline ZCline on Sep 16, 2009
    Mitsubishi’s electric micro at $40k… the Volt hybrid at $32-$38k ($32k after a whopping 7.5k tax break? Puh-lease…)… various start-ups offering electrics at a price around $20,000 higher than the Chinese tin cans they’re based on. I just had an interesting thought. You're still going to have to go buy your Volt down at the Chevy dealership, right? And we know how they love marking up the price on new hot cars ... so what are the chances that even with the $7500 tax credit you'll still be shelling out $40k ...
  • Bunter1 Bunter1 on Sep 16, 2009

    I find it interesting that Toyota just spent 3 years testing these batteries. GM is claiming they can engineer the Volt from the ground up in about the same time. Who do you think takes a more thorough approach to engineering their (your?) vehicles? Bunter

  • Rada Rada on Sep 16, 2009

    And this is the difference between how the Japanese and the white folks do business. The Japanese quietly test and test for years, perfecting the product until it's ready - so that all you need to do is turn on the assembly line switch and get the money rolling in. At the same time the Westerners brag and boast, and have a huge chip on the shoulder.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Sep 16, 2009

    Niky - read up on the EV-1. GM never offered them for sale and they did not want to sell them because they wanted to close the program down and not be required to offer parts and service for ten years. Toyota DID sell a full on EV before they sold the hybrids. It was an all-electric RAV4 - a regular steel bodied vehicle. They are STILL running around with the original batteries and some of them have over 100K miles. That was about 5-7 years ago. GM held the patents on the large capacity NiMH batteries and shortly after ending the EV1 program GM sold the patents to Chevron. Chevron and GM then sued Panasonic and Toyota and forced them to quite making large capacity NiMH batteries even though Panasonic argued that they and Toyota had substantially improved the NiMH battery they were making above and beyond the battery design Chevron held the patents to. Panasonic and Toyota lost to the tune of $30M. So in short EVs are possible NOW. The battery exists and lasts but is wrapped up in patent BS. Am reading a book called "Two Cents per Mile" by Nevres Cefo. I recommend it. He also makes and argument about why we won't see fuel cells anytime soon, what a shell game the whole hydrogen boondoggle is.