By on November 15, 2012


Yesterday, we told you about that miracle battery, Toyota allegedly has developed. The Nikkei [sub] said it will double the range of an EV. The Tokyo wire quoted  researchers as saying that they “may also be able to achieve a driving range of between 500km and 1,000km” (310 to 620 miles), You possibly noticed the skeptical tone when we reported on the report . As it turns out, the Nikkei was a bit – exuberant.

Checking in with Toyota this morning, we learn that Toyota’s researchers indeed have a new Sodium-Ion  battery technology. However, research into this technology is in its very, very early stages.

A group of Toyota researchers (M. Nose, H. Nakayama, K. Nobuhara, S. Nakanishi, and H. Iba) presented a paper titled “Novel Cathode Materials of Sodium-Containing Metal Phosphates as Highly Voltage Sodium-Ion Batteries” at a symposium in Honolulu. After two of the researchers,  Nakanishi-san, and Iba-san were interviewed by the Nikkei, some finer, but crucial points were either misunderstood or lost in translation.

Instead of targeting 2020 as the date of  commercial release of the battery, the researchers think that commercialization can take anywhere between 10 to 20 years – if commercialization indeed turns out to be viable.

The researchers confirm  that the new battery has the potential to extend driving range. However, they did not say, “We may also be able to achieve a driving range of between 500km and 1,000km.” What they said was that to be commercially viable, a next-generation battery should give an EV that range or one exceeding it. With that in mind, they are pushing forward with their research.

Bottom line: Take that sodium story with a big grain of salt.

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19 Comments on “Lost In Translation: About That Miracle 600 Mile Battery…...”

  • avatar

    The original Nikkei article said Toyota will show their battery technology in Fukuoka on November 15th; not a seminar in Honolulu (which btw was last month).

    Also, the Nikkei mentions not just sodium-ion batteries but various post-lithium batteries that Toyota is looking at. It also has an article published on the 12th of November basically saying Mg-ion batteries for Toyota.

    No coincidence, an article about Toyota North America popped up on Green Car Congress yesterday about Toyota’s Mg-ion battery technology that will nearly double the range and cost less (sound familar?):

    • 0 avatar

      Excuse me, the Nikkei article (see link) mentions neither Honololu, nor Fukuoka, nor that it would matter in that context. The referred article is the English translation of a Japanese article (hence the video …) and that’s what most people outside of Japan will read.

      • 0 avatar

        As there was an ENGLISH article and a US journal publication talking about Toyota’s battery technology the same day as Nikkei, essentially boasting the same thing (link above), its obviously talking about the same battery.

        If you look at that Honolulu seminar you linked to, you would also see that Toyota has several technologies being shown. There are multiple technologies that Toyota, or any one company, investigates.

  • avatar

    several yrs ago this was super hot topic in town too. now they have admitted is not going anywhere in a hurry.

    • 0 avatar

      When they did the bus test fleet, I became a true believer. When it fizzled out, I took off my rose colored glasses. I think they need someone who is good at mass production to make it manufacturable at reasonable cost, and get it out of the lab. The stationary power supplies seemed to be doing OK when I last checked.

  • avatar

    The next development will be the accidental discovery of cold fusion from Toyota’s work.

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      From Toyota’s PR Department:

      “Toyota’s Prius has long stood as the global standard for efficiency and greener energy usage.

      With our new Prius Apollo, drivers can now harness the energy of the Sun.”

      They were going to call it Prius Fusion but got a snarky letter from Ford’s legal department.

      • 0 avatar

        So long as they don’t call it the Prius Icarus…naming cars after the doomed Phaeton (son of Helios) was bad enough–though VW’s model did show some daring.

        “Here Phaëthon lies who in the sun-gods chariot fared. And though greatly he failed, more greatly he dared”

  • avatar

    Amazing how that next big battery revolution has been three years away for the past 25 years.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      big oil

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think you appreciate just how much battery technology has come in the last 15 years (much less 25 years).

      If you look at the GM EV1 in 1996, the lead-acid battery weighed 3,100lbs and stored 16kwh of energy. In 1999 GM upgraded the battery to NiMH batteries, this reduced weight by 200lbs and increased capacity to 18kwh. In 2010, the Chevy Volt battery weighed 400lbs and stores 16 Kwh.

      The goal is by 2020 to have batteries that weigh 200lbs and store 16 kWh. Perfectly reasonable expectation considering how far we’ve come.

      • 0 avatar

        You and your silly facts! In Magicboy’s defense, it does seem like every couple months we get another story about a revolutionary new battery technology…that may amount to something in a decade or two. That’s not so much due to a problem with battery science as it is our media’s need for eyeball-grabbing headlines(present company excepted, of course).

        Look at cars: Modern engines make 2-3 times more horsepower per cc compared to a couple decades ago. But there isn’t any one point in time you point to when hp suddenly doubled, or any one improvement. Tech improves incrementally, that’s how it works.

      • 0 avatar

        That number sounded a little wacky to me. It was the whole car that weighed 3100 pounds. The battery was 1175 pounds. Still, they’ve cut the battery weight down by 66%.

      • 0 avatar

        We see so many battery stories because research funding has been pouring in for the last 3 years.. from companies, governments and universities. Batteries will power the car of the future and no one dares to be left behind since cars are the basis of industry in many countries.

        The best stuff always ends up in laptop batteries first, those things are made in the millions. Musk knew what he was doing.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s like saying computers haven’t advanced much because they look the same and still run MS Paint and Minesweeper. The cost, energy density, and operating ranges of batteries have dramatically improved in the last decade, even if no one noticed.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    It’s Toyota, I wouldn’t bet against them. 20 years ago if you told people that Toyota would build a mainstream hybrid people would have said “you so crazy”. How big is their R&D budget for this and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff that won’t bear fruition? The stuff that will be commercially viable will be marketed like crazy.

  • avatar

    With our new Prius Apollo, drivers can now harness the energy of the Sun.”

    yes how much current can u harness? 150 milli amp or 10 amp/hr both are doing the same job.
    several yrs ago I was pretty naive to think one of these small panel 15 X 4 inches panel could re-charge a dead batt.
    well is going to adequately re-charge my night light thats about all.
    Not even enuf juice to power up the car radio system.

    And Tesla folks were claiming to build roadside quick charging stn to refill teslas’ batt in as much time u take a pee pee, buy a fresh ground starbucks latte or check your stock online. Perhaps this is going to happen by 2045.

    • 0 avatar

      The Tesla roadside stations are supposed to deliver 100kw. Do you have any frame of reference for how much power this is? I’ve crawled through multi-megawatt computing facilities, and personally flipped the breaker on groups of circuits that are that big. It would take well over a hundred thousand of your 150 milliamp panels to deliver that kind of power. But that kind of power can easily be delivered.

      One tidbit that you may be missing is that the PV systems on the Tesla stations are grid tied. The panels just generate the average amount of energy that Tesla guesses will be used by their customers and sells it to the electric company. When a vehicle pulls up to the station, they buy back that energy – and bloody fast. It’s not the same thing as what you were doing with your battery and panel, but most environmentalists seem to think it counts.

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