Lithium to power both conventional and plug-in Prius in 2012?
Prius: Powered by lithium
There was a time when the third generation Toyota Prius was scheduled to launch with a lithium-ion battery pack. Then Toyota balked.
Some said it was the unreliability and manufacturing difficulties of Toyota’s cobalt-based lithium technology. Toyota claimed it all boiled down to cost.
Regardless, the rumor that Toyota will replace the NiMH battery pack in the current Prius with a lithium-ion battery pack in 2012 continues to gain strength. Just today, for instance, MotorTrend speculated that both the Prius and the Lexus HS 250h hybrid could switch “midcycle” to lithium, something that Toyota hinted at as a doubtful possibility when it launched the latest Prius model – but a possibility nonetheless.
Since Toyota is going to launch a lithium-ion based plug-in Prius in 2012, why not make all Prius hybrids lithium hybrids?
With plans to sell only 20,000 – 30,000 plug-in Prius hybrids per year initially, it might be far easier and safer to scale up to full lithium adoption by using lithium only in plug-in models, especially since Toyota sells a few hundred thousand Prius hybrids per year. That makes the most kaizen-like sense, and better fits Toyota’s conservative tendencies.
Recently, however, many have claimed that lithium prices have dropped a bit faster than anticipated due to tax incentives in the US, China, etc. And while lithium might not make a plug-in vehicle cost-effective compared to a gasoline vehicle, lithium might make a lithium-powered hybrid more cost-effective than a NiMH-powered hybrid.
Certainly, that isn’t going to mainstream hybrid vehicles but it might double or triple Toyota hybrid sales, for instance. Such an increase in the US could easily push the Prius back into the Top Ten US auto sale’s list.
And considering the hammering Toyota’s reputation has taken because of recent recalls, such PR might be desperately needed these days.