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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Toyota Unveils Sweeping Plans For New Battery Tech EV Innovation

Japan’s top automaker will introduce ten new electric vehicles by 2025 and sell 1.5 million EVs annually by the end of the decade, the company said on Tuesday. The move marked Toyota’s most entire disclosure of a plan to compete in the fast-growing market as it faces pressure from environmentalists and investors to make faster progress. The world’s largest carmaker will set up a new unit and invest in technology widely expected to put it at parity with Silicon Valley rival Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) in production and cost.

Toyota, which makes hybrid versions of the Prius family of cars and the Lexus luxury models, also works on hydrogen fuel cell technology that uses renewables to generate power for an electric motor. That power could be stored in a tank, providing a more extended range for an electric vehicle than can be achieved using lithium batteries, currently the technology of choice for most EVs.

Hydrogen is still expensive and requires an infrastructure for producing, transporting, and storing the gas. However, Toyota works with various partners to produce cleaner and cheaper hydrogen. Its engineers have been exploring the option for months and will continue to do so after the briefing, a person familiar with the matter said.

In a presentation on its website, Toyota said it would have a more energy-dense battery available in an EV in 2026 that delivers 1,000 km on a single charge and cuts charging time to 20 minutes or less. It also plans to produce a range of lower-cost lithium iron phosphate batteries for use in vehicles, with a 20% increase in cruising range and a 40% reduction in costs compared to the current bZ4X batteries used in its EVs. It will use Giga casting, the production process pioneered by Tesla, to reduce the complexity of manufacturing the new batteries.

Besides batteries, Toyota’s plans include developing silicon carbide wafers that will be used to create the semiconductor chips needed for next-generation EV inverters, which convert DC power from the batteries into AC to drive the electric motors. Those chips are expected to cut the power loss from conversion by up to 50%, helping to extend an EV’s driving range. Toyota will use a fusion manufacturing process to make the silicon carbide chips, which it is developing with partners, including Denso Corp (6902.T).

The company is also seeking a more aerodynamic design to improve the coefficient of drag of its upcoming models — a measure of how much resistance the vehicles generate while moving through the air, which affects their range. The firm is collaborating with rocket designers from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T), whose expertise it hopes will help to reduce the weight of its electric-car components and lower their overall mass. That should allow for a more extended range while also cutting the space required to house the components in the chassis and body.

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