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Could Toyota’s battery breakthrough be the “holy grail” for electric vehicles?

Updated: Aug 28

toyota logo on car close up
Image Credit: Fuad Mohammed // Unsplash

Solid-state batteries have been called many names. As Financial Times puts it, it’s the elusive “holy grail of battery technology,” and according to Reuters, they’re "the kiss of death" for gas-powered cars. Now, with its newest announcement, Toyota hopes to deliver that kiss, bringing solid-state batteries to market as early as 2027.

Essentially, a solid-state battery is an alternative to liquid batteries, aka the current norm in the EV world. Liquid batteries have their issues, from the long time it takes the charge in comparison to quickly and conveniently filling up a tank of gas, to the infamous Tesla car battery that caught on fire.

These batteries use liquid lithium-ion electrolytes, but a solid-state battery, which uses a solid electrolyte, could alleviate many of the concerns both on the consumer side, by charging faster without getting too hot, as well as on the automaker side, by allowing the batteries to be smaller without comprising the range.

Currently, the top reasons some people are reluctant to get an EV — as if the battery fire story wasn’t their final straw — is range anxiety, or the fear that the battery will run out of charge before they get from point A to point B, lack of charging stations, length of charging time, and the initial higher upfront cost of vehicles.

While tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act cut the costs significantly, making many EVs financially comparable to their gas counterparts, and there are efforts by the Biden Administration to address the lack of EV infrastructure, many of the consumer concerns are in the hands of the automakers.

With a solid-state battery, Toyota says its EVs could have a range of 1,200km (752 miles) — more than twice the range of its current EV — and to top it off, a charging time of 10 minutes or less.

According to a poll by Reuters, 35% of Americans surveyed wanted EVs with ranges of 500 miles, which most are currently unable to offer. With the solid-state battery, Toyota may be able to exceed expectations, and if credible, deliver what could be the longest-range EV on the market.

Still, we should hold our breath and remain in neutral. The auto industry has long strived for solid-state batteries, with price as one burden, Toyota claims to have ameliorated. The company will need to drastically scale before it races to the finish line.

“Often there are breakthroughs at the prototype stage but then scaling it up is difficult,” David Bailey, a professor of business economics at the University of Birmingham said via The Guardian. But, “if it is a genuine breakthrough it could be a game-changer, very much the holy grail of battery vehicles.”

Already, Toyota plans to deliver 1.5 million EVs in 2026, but by 2027, these EVs could be made with the Japanese automaker’s breakthrough battery.

Additionally, “With the evolution of the vehicle’s operating system, the next-generation battery EV will also enable customization of the ‘driving feel,’ with a focus on acceleration, turning, and stopping,” Toyota said in a press release.

According to Toyota President Koji Sato, the automaker is trying to play catchup on EVs and its climate commitments after falling behind. That’s why in addition to doubling down on its near-future EV rollout and innovating with batteries, as the Associated Press reports, it is also working on biofuels as an alternative to gas, and a “hydrogen society” with continuing its work on models powered by hydrogen, including fuel cell vehicles.

The electric automotive industry has long worked toward a solid-state battery, with Toyota first making plans to go solid in 2017, BMW beginning tests later this year, and Nissan planning to work the tech into its EVs by 2028.

With its plans for commercialization only four years away, Toyota may beat competitors to the punch and potentially alter the EV landscape.

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