• May 31, 2007
When talking about the (hopefully coming in 2010) Chevy Volt, Bob Lutz repeatedly said he was waiting on battery makers to provide GM with battery packs that were up to the challenge, seeing as the show car relies on technology that doesn't exist. GM isn't the only maker with battery issues -- Toyota has pushed back the introduction of lithium ion batteries in the next generation Prius, saying that they're not just not ready to be put in cars because of safety issues. There are independent companies that are installing li-ion battery packs into cars and getting stunning results. Toyota, though, in light of corporate liabilities and its recall record of late, simply can't afford to risk what would be a huge black eye if the next Prius suffered from a hasty misstep.

[Source: Winding Road]



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  • 21 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      I haven't heard of major advances in Li-ion cell life, so this makes sense. The cells' ability to hold a full charge gradually degrades with time and thus likely wouldn't last the 8yr/100k mi warranty currently in place.
      • 7 Years Ago
      A better battery doesn't really change mileage. So Toyota may as well stay with more durable Nimh.

      The bigger battery is useful plugin hybrids, but you really need a leap in battery technology for this to happen.

      Miller cycle? The Prius uses Atkinson which is Miller minus the supercharger which the electric engine compensates for.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Nailing the next-gen battery technology is critical to the hybrid "movement".

      Like many others, I want to see the best and latest technology as soon as possible, but the automakers must get it right the first time.

      Otherwise, this terrific approach to improving MPG and reducing GHG will go down as a failure.
      • 7 Years Ago
      OK, maybe I'm just a lame engineer, but 7Kw-hour doesn't seem like a lot of power.
      One KW is somewhat more than one horsepower, and assuming it takes maybe 7KW to keep a car going 60mph...whoopeee, this car can go for an hour, more or less, at 60mph!
      Double it just for the helluvit and you still only get 120mile range. WTFO?
        • 7 Years Ago
        OK, a little more research reveals the existing Prius has around 20KW-hour NiMH battery...the reference LiH battery (not a Toyota...within the article refers to someone who's retrofitted a Prius with LiH and a plug-in charger) that allows the Prius to get 125mpg is a 7KW-H battery....which is just BS...if the Prius gets 60 with the NiMH battery and no plug-in, why not just charge the existing battery pack off the grid. Makes no sense.

        WHICH is why Toyota is absolutely correct to hold off on LiH (or LiFeH...take your pick of poisons as it were) batteries for the next gen Prius. I for one do not relish burning battery packs or HF fumes from smoking packs.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Yeah - you figure you don't want your car looking like one of the exploding laptops of this last year:

      http://www.engadget.com/search/?q=exploding+laptop
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyota's self-proclaimed high mileage Prius is now outmoded, no matter what the battery tech available to the car industry is. Toyota is not telling us that their single-mode hybrid only helps mileage in city driving. The new and better dual-mode hybrid drive which has been developed by BMW GM and DaimlerChrysler, boosts mileage both in the city and on the interstate. This better system will be in production in both GM and Chrysler vehicles in 2007.
        • 7 Years Ago
        It's interesting how GM takes both sides in the dual-mode debate. On one hand, GM claims the dual-mode hybrid is better because it can sometimes bypass the electric part of the drivetrain and use a direct mechanical connection. On the other hand, the Volt can only drive the wheels via electricity. So is it better to minimize electric drive or maximize electric drive? Maybe Toyota's approach of blending both, without adding the extra complexity of dual mode, is the best option.
          • 7 Years Ago
          GM is developing all hybrid possibilities to include hydrogen. They are showing that they are not going to give up their world dominance without a fight. Toyota is hoping to ride its more primative single mode system to immediate profitability. Then, they will copy what GM is doing now and call it by a different name in hopes of fooling car buyers into believing that it is something new and better.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "he new and better dual-mode hybrid drive which has been developed by BMW GM and DaimlerChrysler, boosts mileage both in the city and on the interstate. This better system will be in production in both GM and Chrysler vehicles in 2007."

        This is 2007! So where are they?
      • 7 Years Ago
      While this is not necessarily the best news for the next generation of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, I do hope they continue applying the current generation to existing cars. I haven't heard much about anything to this effect. I would love to see the Tacoma, Yaris, Corolla and even the Scion cars available with the current HSD system. It's not perfect, but it's still progress and would lay the groundwork when the Lithium Ion generation is ready.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyota really babies the Prius, it has been around for an appreciable amount of time now and seem to be bulletproof in the long run. I suppose it protects their investment in the technology, but it also eases my mind when I consider buying one. Toyota are putting some of their best work into the Prius.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Man, that was a grammatical mess, hope readers caught the drift.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Lithium-ion batteries can easily rupture, ignite, or explode when exposed to high temperatures. Short-circuiting a Li-ion battery can cause it to ignite or explode.

      In other words, if either high heat or short circuits can cause the battery to explode (not just like in the laptop battery fires, but real severe explosions) I wouldn't want one in my car if I ever were to be in an accident.

      Check out what happens to even a small Li-Ion battery if overcharged/overheated/short circuited:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS2hGoJVmlA

      Then there is the whole issue of deep discharge, where if an Li-Ion battery is discharged too much it can take up to 7 times longer than usual to recharge.

      Li-ion batteries also degrade as a function of time, regardless of whether they are used to much, losing approximately 20% capacity per year. This is not really feasible in cars that are kept for more than 10 years.

      Li-Ion batteries are great. Just not ready for the automotive world yet. The question is how much of this can be improved by design, and how much is inate to the Li-Ion reactions.

      I too would like to see diesel-hybrids or miller cycle hybrids, but manufacturers are shying away from these as diesel, miller and hybrid systems already cost a premium to put in a car. Adding two of these to the same vehicle would probably result in more of a price premium than most people would be willing to pay, and definitely more than they would save in gas over the lifespan of the car.

      (Heck, regular hybrids already cost more than you save in gas over the lifespan of the car)
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm waiting for a hybrid diesel system or a hybrid miller cycle system. Why there arent more combining the more efficient fuel cycles? i think its in the hands of the marketing side. Bean Counters get in the way of real engineering, IMHO
        • 7 Years Ago
        Tim, your wait is over. The Prius has always used a Miller (Atkinson) cycle engine. Well, almost Miller cycle; the Prius doesn't need a supercharger because it has an electric motor when it needs torque. The Atkinson cycle engine is one of the reasons the Prius gets good highway mileage in addition to the good city mileage.
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