Toyota’s Next Hybrids: Li+

Feb. 23, 2007: Business Week—Toyota’s Bid for a Better Battery

Summary: Is lithium-ion energy storage ready for production automotive use? It will be soon, according to Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe.

“In an interview with BusinessWeek on Feb. 16, Chief Executive Katsuaki Watanabe confirmed that Toyota’s third-generation hybrid cars, due out in late 2008 or early 2009, will use lithium-ion batteries. Lighter and more powerful than the current nickel metal hydride packs, the new batteries will help make for more fuel-efficient hybrids. “We will change the battery from nickel hydride to the lithium battery,” the CEO said during a rare one-on-one interview at the company’s headquarters in Toyota City. Toyota officials say it’s the first time Watanabe had confirmed the change of cells (see, 2/22/07,’Talking with Toyota’s Top Man).

“It’s not just the batteries that will be better. The rest of Toyota’s next-generation hybrid systems will also be a big step up from what’s on the road today. “We are now aiming at reducing, by half, both size and cost of the third-generation hybrid system,” says Watanabe. That should go some way to bringing the price of hybrids closer to regular gasoline cars.”

Halving the weight and expense of the hybrid synergy drive will help mainstream hybrid technology, increasing fuel economy, and reducing emissions. But neither the article nor the interview bring up Toyota’s thoughts on plug-in hybrids. This seems odd, given that plug-in conversions using lithium-ion battery packs are on the road now.


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  • Alex

    This report and interview comes at the same when EPA MPG estimates have been lowered for every car on the road, because of the more realistic testing. One of the greatest shockers is that the prius dropped 15 mpg, greater than any car. This sounds like a PR attempt to drown out the truth. I would be giving kudos if toyota finally made a PHEV even a small 10 mile range would give them a nobel prize, but life goes on.

  • Tony P.

    The advantage of a Hybrid vehicle is the fact that it recoveres wasted brake energy and reues it to propel the vehicle, hence reducing fuel consumption and emission. Plug ins on the other hand still need electricity to charge the battery. That electricity is produced by either Fosiile fuels or nuclear, primarily. I can not see the real benefit of plug ins!

  • No Name

    Tony P.,

    The benefits of Plug Ins, I think, is that electricity can be produced by many renewable energy (wind, solar, wave, etc) and even when it’s produced by coal/diesel, the effiency of the power plants is much higher than ICE used in cars.


    No Name 🙂

  • DAVE

    Change will only come when the american people get together and demand it with there vote and spending power, otherwise change will come as the manufactures see fit and how it benifits them only

  • BS

    Just read all your comments, check out a documentary called,”Who killed the electric car?” That should tell you why the technology is lacking!!!

  • SHAN


  • Harmsy

    In reply to Tony P:

    In the UK, our utilities industry is a fully open market. This means domestic or industrial users can buy electricity or natural gas from anyone they like. The transmission grid (or national gas main) is owned sperately. Therefore I, as a consumer, can purchase electricity from a company who generates it from wind, solar, hydro, etc. e.g. Ecotricity.

    So, in the UK at least, if someone owns a plug-in hybrid, they are able to ensure the electricity used to charge it is “green”. Many people over here, for example, are now putting PV solar and wind turbines on their own houses.

    A secondary benefit of PHEVs is that when running on electricity alone, they are running at a much higher overall efficiency than when in standard hybrid mode.

    So, what are the benefits of PHEV? I think it’s possible to list many of them!

  • Dave L

    I am a high school physics teacher, and have recently discussed this with my class – we found the following:
    1.) In many places in the US, power comes from a mix of sources, and in some places its mostly natural gas, nuclear, or some other “cleaner” fuel
    2.) Generally, even ‘dirty’ power plants are cleaner than a small combustion engine in a car per unit of energy produced. The benefit is even higher when looking at a residential lawnmower.
    3.) Finally, perhaps the most relevant, is that powerplants are required to become cleaner as time goes on – theoretically, the electricity in your ‘mix,’ should be cleaner as a function of time. The exact opposite is true for a gasoline auto engine, which will degrade over time and be more polluting.

    I would be interested to see a cost analysis of buying gasoline vs. electricity to drive to work.

  • Dave K.

    To Dave L. Ga. Power (my local utility) had an extensive EV program and determined you could drive a plugin car for 1-3cents a mile, also with big polution reductions since it’s so much more efficient, they also stress your point #3, power plants get cleaner, ICE cars get dirtier over time.

  • Pat F. AZ

    APS, our local power company, paid 1/2 the cost of the solar pannels for our home. I drive a Prius and would LOVE to be able to have a plug-in option so I could drive on solar power!

  • Buck R.

    Don’t forget to include the transmission losses when calculating the benefit (or not) of a plug-in vehicle. It is easier to control pollution at a point source like a power plant, however if that plant is 2 states away the transmission losses could be significant.

  • jenny

    This new technology will further increase the performance of Edelbrock parts and with the fuel efficient vehicles. This could mean that hybrid vehicles will be continuing their domination of the auto industry in the future.

  • Mike

    Alex, doesn’t it make sense that a higher mileage car would have the greatest reduction in EPA mileage. They changed the testing procedure to more closely match actual performance in everyday driving. The estimates are now more accurate, I would image that all cars mileage dropped by about the same percentage, so the higher the mileage the larger the mileage difference. compare two vehicles by percent of change not MPG alone. We have a 2004 Prius and we average in mixed driving 49 MPG. Sounds like the new test will give consumers better information.

    Alex, I did check at the EPA’s website and the range of change that I found was from about 9% (Buick Lesabre) to the Prius at 16%. The GMC Yukon MPG dropped 14%. One variable that will affect the Prius performance is temperature. We notice a change of about 4-5 MPG when it gets very cold. More conventional systems change less as a percent of total performance from ambient temp because of stored energy potential in the battery system. If the EPA tests include a factor for different temps then the hybrids will be hit a little harder.
    The EPA did add a cold weather test to the MPG calculations running the vehicles at 20 degrees in the lab. This explains why the hybrids suffered a greater loss as a percent then most conventional cars. The more active and involved the Hybrid drivetrain is as a percent of the total operating time the more impact the newtest standards will have.
    I did not see any data that said that the Prius mileage dropped 15 MPG in city, highway or combined,

  • Jane UK

    I am looking to buy a plug in hybrid car (plug in version) if possible and wondered if anyone has come across a 4 x 4 option as we live on a farm high up and can get snowed in..

  • Plug & Pedal

    Add Bicycle Pedals to assist in the recharge and we could eliminate diabetes as well as green house gasses.

    Another good idea would be to uses active systems to control navigation, then we eliminate, auto insurance, traffic cops & accident attorneys

  • Ken Stathos

    I don’t see why someone hasn’t built a hybrid with a solar panel built right into the roof of the car. It could be charging all day long while sitting in the parking lot or while driving. You could even buy your own panel to plug into anytime you wanted while sitting in the driveway or have a small one sitting in the front windshield all day long plugged into the cigarette lighter. I also heard you could use the car with the plug to power your house in an emergency. Now that’s a hybrid.

  • Dave D

    A properly designed and built plug in Prius will give the commuter (under 60 miles round trip) an all electric drive commute, with all the benefits that implies, while preserving the unlimited range and flexibility of a standard automobile

  • Gary T

    Most solar panels up to this point have been rather heavy for the amount of power generated. For this reason, their transportation would absorb a substantial part of the energy they capture. This looks set to change with new thin film and dye sensitised panels which are in some cases built into a plastic sheet. Once these become efficient enough, then it would make sense for the car to be continuously trickle charged during daylight.

  • Plug in Hybrids

    Why don’t toyota put A solar panel built in to the roof of the car or behind the seat on the package tray to hook up to the charging system to help charge the batteries while it is parked so you don’t have to plug it in if you have sun light?