Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. is intending to hike production of lithium-ion batteries six-fold to 200,000 units a year, according to a report by the Nikkei business daily. Without citing sources, the daily reported that the carmaker is fast-tracking its lithium-ion battery production in preparation for their installation in its flagship Prius gasoline-electric hybrids.
Most of the carmaker’s hybrid vehicles currently use nickel-metal hydride batteries. However, Toyota is planning to make more hybrids powered by lithium-ion batteries, which could be smaller and lighter, leading to an improved fuel economy, the Nikkei reported.
The business daily said that Toyota and Panasonic Corp would invest JPY20 billion ($194 million) to construct a new production line. The joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic will increase lithium-ion battery output capacity to 200,000 units a year, according to the Nikkei.
Toyota spokesman Ryo Sakai told Reuters that taking into account the demand for lithium-ion batteries, the joint venture mulls producing them at its Omori plant. In April 2013, Toyota said it has sold over 5 million gasoline-electric hybrids as of end of March 2013, since they were first launched in 1997.
The carmaker’s Prius series accounted for around 70 percent of the total hybrid sales, making it the most popular hybrid model in the industry. Toyota sold 1.2 million hybrids in 2012 around the world, the first time it surpassed 1 million hybrid sales in a year.
Toyota’s third-generation Prius is going to be constructed using processes that lessen pollution in all stages of the vehicles life, from production, to driving, to disposal.
New Toyota Prius holds its record of continuous fuel economy improvement. The first-generation Prius, which had an EPA rating of 41 mpg (combined city/highway), was replaced by the Prius’ current model, which has an EPA rating of 46 mpg. For the new Prius, however, fuel efficiency will increase to around 50 mpg, thanks to the use of a combination of technologies.
Moreover, the new Prius will be powered by a more powerful and a larger 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, 4-cylinder engine. Contrary to conventional belief, this larger engine helps improve highway mileage. On the highway, it can operate at a lower average rpm by delivering more torque. When running at lower rpm, this new engine also consumes less fuel. Mileage is particularly improved at higher speeds and in cold-start conditions.
What’s more, the use of a new EGR, or exhaust gas recirculation, system and electric water pump contributes to the efficiency of the engine. The engine of the new Prius is the first power plant for Toyota that does not require belts under the vehicle’s hood, which result to less maintenance and better fuel economy.
The new Prius comes standard with a multi-information display panel, which monitors the energy and fuel consumption. This display panel also provides feedback on the car’s efficiency using 3 different displays to help you acquire economical driving habits.