Battery Production Increasing for Future Toyota Hybrids

How can a major car manufacturer increase the driving range and fuel economy of an already popular and fuel-efficient hybrid car? Toyota Motor Corporation plans to do just that for its popular standard non-plugin Prius hybrid model, according to a recent report in the Nikkei Business Daily.

Toyota already uses the lithium-ion battery in some of its car models, including the RAV4 EV, the plugin Prius and the Prius+ designed specifically for the European market. The standard non-plugin Prius continues to use the older and heavier nickel-metal hydride battery cells. To achieve the goal of greater fuel efficiency for the Prius, Toyota plans to replace the Prius’ heavier nickel-metal hydride battery with the lighter and less bulky lithium-ion battery. The battery replacement would allow Toyota to redesign the Prius, resulting in lighter and more fuel-efficient car. This would be the first major manufacturing improvement for the standard Prius after Toyota began selling it 16 years ago. Toyota has yet to release figures on potential improvements in fuel efficiency for the Prius model after the new lithium battery becomes a standard feature.


Toyota reports plans to produce more lithium-ion batteries by as much as six times the current rate. The planned production increase amounts to about 200,000 units every year. However, 200,000 new car batteries still falls one million units short for the one million plus hybrid cars Toyota manufactures every year.


Panasonic Corporation plans to join forces with Toyota to finance the increased production of the lithium-ion car batteries. The Nikkei reported a new production line for the batteries would cost about $194 million ($20 billion yen). Toyota remains silent when asked about a timeline to begin installing the new batteries in future Prius models. According to Reuters, a Toyota representative said the joint venture might consider construction of the new production line at Toyota’s Omori plant.


In 2012, the automotive manufacturing giant sold about 1.2 million of its hybrid cars worldwide. It marks the first time in Toyota’s history of selling hybrid cars when sales surpassed one million in a single year.


In April, Toyota reported it had sold more than five million hybrid cars after Toyota first introduced them in 1997. Said a different way, the 1.2 million Prius sales in the year 2012 alone accounted for nearly one quarter of Toyota’s total Prius sales during the past 16 years.  


The Prius remains the most popular gasoline-electric hybrid car worldwide. Toyota reports sales of the standard Prius model account for about 70 percent of its worldwide hybrid car sales. The number of Prius sales in 2012 clearly shows how popular the model has become among drivers on every continent.

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