Since hybrid vehicles hit the market over two decades ago, automakers have made a lot of upgrades and improvements. One of the biggest focuses has been on a key component to extending the life and functionality of hybrid vehicles; the battery packs.
In this article, The Hybrid Geek takes an in depth look on hybrid battery trends and how far they’ve come since the first hybrid vehicle was rolled out.
Hybrid Battery Technology
There are 3 main types of hybrid batteries that are commonly used by automakers.
- Nickel metal hydride or NiMH
- Lithium Ion or Li-Ion
- Lead Acid batteries
The journey to finding the best technologies to use in hybrid batteries has been, and continues to be, a long, expensive one.
Repairing or replacing a hybrid battery pack can be a costly endeavor for drivers. Although Toyota and Tesla have noted solid state batteries are currently in the engineering phase, it may still be years before they are introduced. Solid state batteries contain solid ingredients versus liquid electrolytes and liquid electrodes.
For drivers looking to purchase new hybrid vehicles, the battery life is reportedly a large factor in the decision making process. Because solid state batteries have a higher energy density, they are found to recharge faster. They are also a safer alternative due to their ability to handle higher temperatures and because they are non-flammable.
Toyota Breaking Into Electric Vehicles?
Although Toyota has historically been slower to break into the market of electric vehicles, their hesitancy may be more calculated than not. While automakers such as Tesla have focused on increasing sales and expanding their inventory of different body styles, Toyota has been working on introducing solid state batteries.
Hybrid vehicles still take up residence on highways and garages across the U.S. but electric vehicle sales have seen more of an increase in the last 5 years. Because of the increasing trend, Toyota seems ready to finally release an EV. A simple explanation from Toyota’s VP of Research and Development about why the lack of electric vehicles can be chalked up to production capacity.
Toyota reports they can produce enough hybrid battery packs for 1.5 million hybrid vehicles per year. This amounts to just 28,000 batteries for electric vehicles per year. The logic? Toyota has not seen a dip in their hybrid vehicle sales, so why start targeting another market if it means a loss in sales due to lower production capability for EVs?
Keeping Up With the Demand
With Tesla sales steadily climbing, Toyota has finally partnered with Panasonic — the same battery manufacturer Tesla uses — to produce batteries. The designs Panasonic and Toyota are working on for future models include solid state batteries. It seems Toyota has finally thrown their hat in the ring and are poised to introduce the solid state battery by 2020.
Not to be outshined, BMW and Volkswagen also invested in alternative technology startups to produce and manufacture solid state batteries. Lithium ion batteries and NiMH are still heavily utilized, with the price of lithium ion batteries reducing over the last two years. However, solid state batteries may take the high road when it comes to affordability, safety, and efficiency.
If solid state batteries truly are less than a year away, according to Toyota’s projected release date, perhaps Elon Musk will have to take a hiatus from his monthly moon walk and re-focus his efforts on keeping up with the Joneses.
What do you think? Is Toyota’s slow, steady growth a well-planned ascent to the top or has Tesla gained too much traction to fall into the #2 spot? Be sure to follow our blog for monthly articles on all things hybrid.