Toyota still apprehensive about lithium ion in spite of PHEV plans

Last Sunday night, Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe announced that the company would offer lithium ion equipped plug-in hybrids to fleet customers in two years. Toyota and Panasonic are also doing feasibility studies for an automotive lithium battery production line at their joint venture battery plant. But that should not be interpreted to mean that Toyota feels the technology is ready for prime time yet. Watanabe made it very clear that the PHEV fleet would comprise only a few hundred vehicles for a field test and would not be offered to the public. The company wants to evaluate how the batteries perform in the real world, but still keep them relatively under control until they achieve a certain degree of confidence.

Over on the Toyota Open Road blog, VP Communications Irv Miller responds today to some of the reactions to Watanabe-san's announcements. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Jon Wellinghof responded that he hoped the Toyota PHEV fleet leads the way on Vehicle-to-Grid technology. While I have been at odds with some of Miller's comments in the past I do believe he is on the money this time. V2G is certainly a promising concept for buffering and stabilizing the electrical grid. To have any real impact, however, it needs wide-spread implementation and upgrades to the infrastructure to support stepping up the current for transmission. Miller also makes a good point about customers potentially being reluctant to give up their electric range if gas prices rise significantly. Toyota may have gone down the wrong path with lithium battery chemistry, but they seem to be intent on catching up. PHEVs are coming but there is still plenty for car-makers to learn about managing batteries to make them robust enough to last the life of the vehicle.

[Source: Toyota Open Road Blog]

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