In June at Toyota Environmental Forum in Tokyo, Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said that the company was setting out to develop an innovative next-generation battery that far outperforms lithium-ion batteries.
Watanabe was referring to what’s known as a metal-air battery, according to Toyota Executive Vice-President Masatami Takimoto. In this type of battery, electricity is generated by a reaction between oxygen in the air and a metal like zinc at the negative electrode. The battery does not require the use of a combustible liquid electrolyte, so there is no danger of ignition as is the case with lithium-ion batteries. Moreover, an air battery has over fives times the energy-storage capacity of a similarly-sized lithium-ion battery...It may take some time before air batteries reach the practical stage, but Toyota believes that they will ultimately become the next-generation battery technology of choice.
...Toshiba Battery Co. has conducted research on air batteries for many years and knows their weak spot: they don’t perform well when made in large sizes. Because of this experience the company has no current plans to develop air-batteries for cars. However, the company acknowledges the large latent potential. “If the performance can be improved they could end up finding use in a wide range of applications (including cars),” agreed Teiji Okayama of the technology development department.
Toyota founded a chair for research on advanced batteries at Kyoto University, and will carry out research in collaboration with chair professor Koji Nishio.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Stuart Licht at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, recently published a paper on the development of a vanadium boride (VB2)/air cell that offers an order of magnitude higher energy capacity than lithium-ion batteries. (Earlier post.)