In the race to find the most sustainable technology for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, manufacturers are scrambling to be the one that gets it right. Toyota has for a long time been the pack leader when it comes to hybrid cars, yet the Big T is lacking when it comes to full electric vehicles.
Not for lack of trying though, having bought a reasonable stake in Tesla (the people who make electric sportcars) and invested heavily into the technology, Toyota has some seriously big plans for the future. Part of that plan is to stay ahead of the rest in battery technology.
The world's largest car manufacturer announced today that it's working on developing a magnesium battery which will be capable of holding twice the energy of lithium-ion cells in use today (Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan LEAF).
The magnesium-sulfur battery is being worked on at Toyota's technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan (U.S.A), whilst the Toyota research centres in Japan work s on other ideas such as lithium air and metal air batteries for powering electric cars.
“Going from nickel-metal hydride to lithium ion, you essentially double the energy capacity, lithium ion theoretically, under ideal conditions, has a capacity of about 2,000 kilowatt hours. That’s still not enough to really make a very competitive battery that’s necessary for future plug-in, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles.” Jeffrey Makarewicz, the Toyota engineer in charge of the project, told AutoNews in an interview at the Detroit Motorshow.
But don't hold your breath. Lithium-ion batteries aren't going anywhere for some time as magnesium battery powered vehicles are still a good decade away.
Whilst Nissan and Mitsubishi have taken the electric-car seriously and come first to market with their product, other manufacturers (including Toyota) are still some years behind. Nissan believes it can sell 500,000 battery-powered electric-cars a year through its global network and affiliate brands in Europe.