In the race to produce the first electric car with a solid-state battery, Toyota is in the lead. The Japanese giant plans to debut its first working prototype in 2021, with a production car going on sale sometime in the early 2020s according to a new report in the Nikkei.
The technology would usher in a new era of EVs, as solid-state batteries are more compact, charge faster, safer and possess more energy density than the traditional lithium-ion batteries that are in current widespread use. They use a solid electrolyte rather than a liquid or gel polymer electrolytes found in in Li-ion units. That means they require less physical space to produce the same amount of energy, and are less prone to fire when damaged.
It’s estimated that a solid-state car could have a range of 1000 kilometers (621 miles) and take 10 minutes to charge. Solid-state batteries deteriorate less over time, and Toyota aims to retain 90% of the battery’s performance over a 30-year lifespan. Toyota leads the solid-state battery patent count, owning over 1,000 related to the technology.
There are still difficulties in manufacturing solid-state batteries, however. They require extremely dry conditions during production, and the raw lithium required is a scarce resource. To help accelerate development of the technology, the Nikkei reports that the Japanese government is considering spending part of a new ¥2 trillion ($19.2 billion) decarbonization fund in building a solid-state battery production infrastructure in the country. Industrial firms such as Mitsui Kinzoku, petrol company Idemitsu Kosan, and Sumitomo Chemical are all gearing up to make the solid electrolytes.
Toyota is jointly developing the battery with Panasonic, a leader in battery technology, and had planned to reveal something during the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Though the games were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Toyota was slow to say when the battery prototypes would make their first public showing. Now, it appears that it’ll be sometime in 2021.