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Report: Toyota Will Delay Use of Li-Ion in the Prius

WSJ. The Wall Street Journal reports that Toyota Motor has decided to postpone using lithium-ion battery technology in the initial versions of its next generation Prius due to worries over the safety of the li-ion technology.

The kind of lithium-ion battery technology that was under consideration for use in the Prius—one based on lithium cobalt oxide—has shown a tendency to overheat and catch on fire—a problem that has bedeviled computer makers using lithium-ion batteries made by Japan’s Sony Corp. The delay also comes in response to the recent rise in product recalls and other quality gaffes in new Toyota vehicles, the individuals who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

They said the decision was made ultimately by Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe who in the recent past has voiced concern about Toyota’s vehicle quality—what he has repeated called the auto maker’s “lifeline.” In the U.S., the number of recalls hit 2.38 million vehicles in 2005, before settling down to 601,894 vehicles last year, according to Toyota. The company plans to use a more advanced version of nickel-metal hydride batteries for the initial launch of the next-generation Prius, people familiar with the company’s plans said.

Toyota has been working with li-ion batteries from Panasonic EV Energy, which provides NiMH batteries for Toyota’s current range of hybrids.

Panasonic EV has been working with a LiNiCoAlO2 cathode material for its next generation cells—material that is the most proven, but that also is the most thermally unstable at a high state of charge, according to Dr. Menahem Anderman of Advanced Automotive Batteries.

The material is also moisture sensitive, and experiences impedance rise at a high state of charge, he notes.

If the report pans out, Toyota’s delay may give GM an opening. Although GM has not yet selected production cells for its new Volt (or the plug-in VUE hybrid), it has awarded battery development contracts for each platform.

For the Volt, the contracts went to CPI, and to a partnership between Continental and A123Systems. (Earlier post).

A123Systems uses a doped iron phosphate cathode. Iron phosphate chemistry is the most thermally stable, and should be the most stable at high SOC, according to Anderman. CPI uses  a proprietary lithium manganese spinel (LiMn2O4).

A123Systems, with Cobasys as a partner, is also involved in the VUE plug-in hybrid work, as is Johnson Controls Saft—another company working with LiNiCoAlO2.

(A hat-tip to Felix at CalCars!)



LiNiCoAlO2 might not be the smartest choice. It's a pitty.


I can't believe they would be dumb enough to try using cobalt based LiIon in an automotive application. Right from the start they would have been aware of the problems.

Something doesn't smell right with this story, because Panasonic EV are well advanced with manganese based LiIon, which is much more thermally stable and has a better safety profile. Could this be a delaying tactic to give time to make a face-saving switch to a better FePO4 or nanotech style battery?


If this is true it is a big blow for Toyota and implies that GM suddenly has a really good chance to be the first car maker that uses lithium batteries for their hybrids and PHEVs. It appears Toyota picked the wrong chemistry to begin with using LiNiCoAlO2 and they may have wasted as much as 24-36 months of development in this area.

The problem with LiNiCoAlO2 is not only the stability issues but also that it contains Cobolt and Nickel which are already expensive metals. These metals will be many times more expensive if future car batteries came to use these chemistries. I think this is the real issue that has triggered Toyotas decision to abort the project because they said early in the year that the lithium batteries were technically fully developed. Interestingly it also appears that GM has told Saft that they are no longer interested in their LiNiCoAlO2 chemistry. I think that because 1) GM did not pick Saft for their development of the Volt batteries but instead has chosen two producers that work with the potentially much cheaper chemistries of LiMn2O4 (CPI) and LiFePO4 (A123). 2) I also think it because of an almost funny announcement from Saft where they say they will start developing and selling LiFePO4 batteries. It is funny because the tone in this letter displays contempt for the LiFePO4 chemistry and praises their old LiNiCoAlO2 chemistry. This statement looks like it is written by an offended engineer that was told by GM that the LiNiCoAlO2 chemistry was a no longer considered an option for car use. Make your own judgement the link is

Bike Commuter Dude

Now, we just need GM to produce a desirable product, and start reporting how many (or few) hybrids they have actually sold.

Adam Galas

The naught decade was and is being dominated by Toyota, who conquered the Hybrid market. But the next decade will be dominated by whomever can conquer the PHEV market.

Toyota better get their heads in the game or they will lose their hard fought supremecy to GM.

The Volt is like GM's Prius, only better since it is 1 step away from achieving the absolute last phase in automotive propulsion, BEVs.

I have noticed lately that Toyota seems to be a victim of their own sucess.

Their Hybrid Synergy Drive was the undisputed king of hybrid systems for so long, (so much so that even Ford and Nissan liscenced it for their cars) that they have become complacent.

Not GM is entering late into the game but throwing their massive resources into duel mode hybrids and PHEV tech and Toyota seems to be caught off guard.

Toyota announced a few weeks ago that by 2020 they will sell exculisvly hybrids.

At first this sounds like they are leading the way into the future.

But when one considers that by 2020 peak oil will have already happened, and gas will be at least $10/gallon, plain hybrids just won't cut it.

Toyota may find that it acted too slowly and that GM's PHEV have leap frogged them.

Of course as the world's largest auto company and with profits of over $13 billion last year, Toyota could buy Tesla motors or Miles automotive around 2015 when both companies will be able to sell Evs at $30.000 or less with range of 300+ miles, thus leapfrogging GM's PHEV tech.


The benefactors of the GM v. Toyota competition are the planet and those who live on it. Both companies are doing their best to bring out innovative hybrid vehicles and are understandably concerned with safety and reliability. What we should help with is preparing the public for new technology that may not be one hundred percent perfect on the first iterations. Places like GCC are good forums to prepare the pubic for shakeouts in new technologies like Li batteries.

This really boils down to tolerance for both Toyota and GM as they steer their huge operations to building and marketing new tech vehicles on a far shorter development curve than they're used to. GCC should champion both efforts as both are in keeping with GCC principles. To that end, our role in the success of the first PHEVs can and should be substantial.

David R.

If only Toyota would look at Altair's battery techology.
The price on my 20,000 shares of ALTI would hit the roof.


Where I live in the rural midwest we see a lot ot Priuses!...If GM makes the Volt, got the same amount of mileage and was as clean as Prius I imagine I'd see several of them. People here in the midwest do a LOT of driving in between towns/cities...rural is the key word...gas costs almost 4 dollars per gallon...once they get the lithium batteries perfected! Altair Nano, Valence, and Lithium Technology Corporation in Pennsylvania are good candidates!!! Get the 40 mile all electric range for Prius! +100mpg....oooh I can't wait!!!...its gonna be great...I'd like to get a lithium retrofit lithium pack for my insight so it could get +100 mpg

What would really be great is when MIT perfects the wi-tricity or wireless power transmission...the way Tesla envisioned it 100 yrs ago!...You could put this transmitters on lightposts telephone poles in cities...Then you would have a truly unlimited range electric vehicles!!!!!!! ....

and when it does no more ICE's in cities just hybrids.....We can outlaw ICE's in city and just drive on AC electric drive and only use gas in the rural...


I've been seeing lots of Priuses everywhere.  Everywhere, that is, except Las Vegas.  The official LV car appears to be a Mustang.


This "safety" concern article is also BS because Toyota ALREADY has lithium-ion batteries on the roads in Japan and has done since 2005.

The Japan market Toyota Vitz has an intelligent stop-start feature, which is powered by an onboard high-power lithium-ion battery. This has been on the roads in the hands of ordinary buyers in Japan for years.

To avoid thermal runaway problems of cobalt based electrodes, Toyota uses the * LiNO * system (not cobalt) for the Vitz battery. This cobalt story is just a rouse.

The REAL reason why they are delaying this is because they are (rightly) terrified that GM is about to overtake them with the vastly superior nanothech battery.

If GM signs an exclusive deal with A123/Altair and Toyota can't get their hands on this type of battery, then GM would have immediately leapfrogged Toyota dramatically in the critical PHEV technology race. As this impacts hugely on potential sales of vehicles from about 5 years from now and onwards, Toyota's market share (and share price) could suffer drastically if they don't address this issue soon.


A123 do not need to do exclusive deals anymore. They make money already from selling their M1 battery to many others. They have no incentive to limit sales of their new automotive grade batteries to any particular car producer. Why minimize their market opportunity? Toyota and Ford may actually do a smart move if they made a deal with A123’s Hymotion division to sell the Prius and Escape with the Hymotion plug-in solution preinstalled on new vehicles. Then they could offer PHEV from early 2008. I am rather sure they will sell ice cream on a hot summer day even if they charged a $10000 premium for that option.


Does Enerdel figure in any of this??

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