The Wall Street Journal reports that Toyota has decided to delay by one to two years the launches of new high-mileage hybrids with lithium-ion battery technology because of potential safety problems.
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 cobalt oxide (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.
(As a comparison, A123Systems, with whom GM is co-developing li-ion cells for the Chevy Volt (earlier post), uses a doped iron phosphate cathode. Iron phosphate chemistry is the most thermally stable, and should be the most stable at high SOC.)
Until recently, Toyota was preparing to roll out a dozen new and redesigned hybrids using new lithium-ion battery technology in the U.S. between 2008 and 2010. Its hybrids now use nickel-metal-hydride batteries. But safety concerns with the lithium-ion technology have forced Toyota to back away from that timetable, people familiar with the company’s strategy say.
The rollout—critical to Toyota’s goal of selling 600,000 hybrids a year in the U.S. by early next decade, up from nearly 200,000 last year—is on hold, according to Toyota executives knowledgeable about the company’s hybrid-product plans for the U.S. market.
...Toyota also postponed plans for hybrid versions of its big and fuel- thirsty Tundra pickup and its Sequoia sport-utility vehicle, though the executives added there is a chance Toyota would revive big-truck hybrids and come out with them by 2013 or 2014.
...The first Toyota hybrid that uses lithium-ion battery technology won’t arrive in the U.S. until early 2011 when a derivative of the Prius, a wagon, comes out, company executives say—a delay of at least a year from the original plan.
...Aside from the planned lithium-ion Prius wagon, Toyota now plans to launch as many as nine other lithium-ion-battery hybrids in the 2011- 2012 period. Among them are a new wagon-style crossover with three rows of seating and a wagon derivative of the Camry.