Toyota builds solid-state battery EV prototype for Tokyo Olympics; limited production possible in 2025

Toyota nickel metal-hydride battery (pictured). Solid-state batteries that are under development aim to give even more driving range than current battery technology allows

Toyota had planned to unveil its solid-state battery-powered prototype at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which has since been postponed to 2021 due to restrictions around the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Toyota executive vice president of powertrains Keiji Kaita as told to Automotive News, the Japanese manufacturer has a working prototype.

The true potential of the solid-state battery has yet to be harnessed, however, as these batteries have tendency to fail after repeated charging. “To counter limitations, we’re looking at how we might adjust the anode or other materials. We are trying to reduce disadvantages that are found,” said Kaita.

Solid-state batteries benefit automotive applications because they charge quicker, last longer and have a greater energy density. This means that a solid-state battery pack can give even more driving range than an equal-energy lithium-ion battery pack of the same dimensions.

Toyota builds solid-state battery EV prototype for Tokyo Olympics; limited production possible in 2025

Toyota and Panasonic established Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, a joint venture that specialises in automotive prismatic lithium-ion batteries

Toyota and battery partner Panasonic is focusing on a sulfur-based electrolyte that is said to allow more efficient transfer of ions between electrodes, according to Car & Driver, however Toyota is still in pursuit of the right electrolyte that will not become deformed from charging and discharging cycles, and fail as a result.

Electronics manufacturer Samsung is working on its own solution for the same issue, where instead of replacing the electrolyte, the lithium anodes are replaced with a silver-carbon composite in order to reduce the destruction of the electrolyte when the battery is being charged, the magazine reported.

In the Toyota corner, the breakthrough in solid-state battery development could come from new materials or a new design, said Kaita. However, manufacturing is a decidedly involved process as the cells are produced in compact booths as they need to be made in an ultra-dry environment, Kaita added.

Large-scale manufacturing is hindered by parts of the production process, where workers have to work on the cells in those booths through sealed gloves. However, limited manufacture of these solid-state batteries are still on track for commencement in 2025, said Toyota. The battery technology will still be at a developmental stage, though it stands to give EV range a significant boost once mass production is viable.