Discover more from Planet Earth & Beyond
Toyota's 745-mile Battery Takes A Significant Leap Forward
A new partner will make the Japanese carmaker a world-beater.
Despite being the second-largest automaker in the world, Toyota has lagged behind in the EV race. But, as I have discussed in previous articles, this fact is a little misleading. You see, they have been developing something magical in relative secrecy for decades: a 745-mile solid-state battery capable of fully charging in 10 minutes. Such technology has been unreachable for years, both financially and technologically, but Toyota is on a war path to make this vision come true and take the top dog spot in the EV world. Well, a crucial piece of their puzzle has been filled, meaning Toyota’s ultimate EV battery just took a massive step closer to fruition.
Okay, let’s recap what this battery actually is.
Toyota has been developing solid-state batteries since the 90s. Unlike the lithium-ion “wet cells” we use today, which use a gel-like electrolyte to bind the different sides of the battery together, a solid-state cell is made of layers of adhered solids, normally ceramics. This dramatically boosts the density of lithium the battery can store, whilst also reducing the amount of material needed per kWh of storage. It also makes the cell chemistry more stable, prolonging the battery’s lifespan. They also don’t need to go through an energy-intensive drying process like our current cells do. This means that, in theory, solid-state cells are faster charging, lighter, smaller, longer lived, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than our current cells.
** Quick interruption, if you want more from me, or interact with me, go follow me on Bluesky**
The problem is manufacturing these cells has been insanely difficult, and ensuring these ceramics don’t break (and ruin the battery) has been nearly impossible. As such, for decades, they have been too expensive and too experimental for public applications like EVs.
But Toyota thinks they have solved these issues. As such, it wants to produce a 745-mile solid-state battery that is twice as energy-dense as current batteries and costs half that of lithium-ion per kWh! That means only $40 per kWh, which would mean a Model 3-sized Battery pack would cost only $2,400! Moreover, they aim to get this battery on the road by 2027!
Now, even if Toyota has been developing this battery for decades, that is a tall order, and they can’t pull this feat off by themselves. They need a partner to help meet this incredibly tight deadline.
Well, Toyota just announced such a partner, and it gives us a better understanding of how they have been able to solve the problems with solid-state batteries.
This partnership is with Idemitsu. Now, Idemitsu is primarily a Tokyo-based oil company. But, they have been shuttling profits into developing next-gen battery technology so that they can survive and remain profitable post-energy transition. That isn’t just lip service either, like every other oil company and their greenwashing initiatives. In fact, Idemitsu is a world leader in sulphide solid electrolytes (the central part of a solid-state battery). They have been actively developing this technology since 2001 and even have a small pilot facility currently in operation that has been gradually increasing output.
This partnership gives Toyota access to a wealth of development and production techniques. What’s more, sulphide electrolytes solve an awful lot of the problems with solid-state batteries.
You see, solid-state batteries that use sulphide-rich electrolytes are known as lithium-sulphur batteries. The sulphur enables the cell to store around double the lithium per unit volume as current lithium-ion cells, perfectly aligning with Toyota’s predictions about this battery. These sulphide electrolytes also have much higher ionic conductivity, greatly boosting the battery’s power and charge rate. In fact, lithium-sulphur batteries can already fully charge in under 10 minutes when bench-tested in the lab. Again, this lines up with Toyota’s predictions. Finally, sulphur electrolytes have fantastic mechanical properties. This enables them to be chemically stable, which increases the cell’s lifespan. It also makes them far less brittle than other solid-state electrolytes, which makes manufacturing far more accessible and cheaper.
The fact that Toyota is teaming up with a world leader in sulphur-lithium technology and production shows how they can tout such incredible batter specifications and that this plan isn’t bat s**t crazy. They have everything they need to pull this off before their deadline!
Now, that’s not to say Toyota and Idemitsu don’t have challenges on their hands. But they have a three-phase plan.
In the first phase, Toyota and Idemitsu will use Idemitsu’s pilot factory to create better electrolytes by increasing the quality, dropping costs, and shrinking lead times. They have to get these aspects nailed perfectly before they start the scale-up production, as once scaled up, any faults will be “baked in” to their designs.
Phase two will be to start scaling up. Together, they will build a more extensive pilot facility. Idemitsu will attempt to achieve proper mass production of their solid electrolyte-based batteries, while Toyota will focus on integrating them into their next-gen EVs. The target is to get both the EV platform and the solid-state battery factory ready and in production by 2027 so that they can enter the market in the year 2027 or 2028.
The third and final stage is to fully scale up this technology. This will involve the two building several gigafactories around the world. That way, Toyota’s entire global line-up can be based around these batteries. Now, there are no dates set for this stage, so it might not be until the early 2030s that Toyota’s groundbreaking battery can be widely available in multiple types of vehicles across the globe.
Okay, so what is the implication of this?
Well, this partnership means that Toyota has everything in place to see this plan through. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky vapourware technology to temporarily boost the company’s stock price (I’m looking at you, Elon…). It is a vast technological leap decades in the making. No one else has anything like this, not Tesla, VW, Lucid, Fisker or BMW. They are all miles away from such a well-supported and reliable path to battery specifications like this. Particularly Tesla, as the 4680 battery they are producing today is a far cry from the battery Musk promised back in 2020 (read here). And, as Tesla’s resources and funds are going on building new factories and getting the 4680 off the ground, it is unlikely they can have anything to rival Toyota’s solid-state cells when they come to market in price or performance.
As such, this partnership is yet more evidence that Toyota is gearing up to demolish the EV industry and maybe even take Tesla’s top stop. This is far from certain though. So, keep your eyes on Toyota over the next few years, as they might just surprise you.
Thanks for reading! Content like this doesn’t happen without your support. So, if you want to see more like this, don’t forget to Subscribe and follow us on Google News and Flipboard and follow me on Bluesky, or hit the share button below.