PHOTO CAPTION: Plug-in Prius concept said to have just over 12 miles of electric driving range.

Toyota Secretly Tested Lithium Batteries in Priuses

After three years of testing, company still has reservations on cost and durability.

Published: 15-Sep-2009

NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor Corp., the biggest seller of hybrid autos, is sticking with nickel as the preferred battery material for most of the vehicles after three years of secretly testing Prius hatchbacks with lithium-ion packs.

Toyota last month ended road tests of 126 Priuses in the U.S., Japan and Europe that began in 2006, Jana Hartline, a company spokeswoman said in an interview. Details of the program, in which the cars’ nickel metal hydride batteries were replaced with more expensive lithium models, weren’t released.

Automakers are introducing models all or partly powered by lithium-ion batteries holding twice the energy of nickel packs. While Toyota’s lithium version performed well and gave “small” fuel-economy gains because of lighter weight, nickel is favored for conventional, mass-market hybrids for its cost, said Kazuo Tojima, the carmaker’s senior staff engineer for batteries.


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Lithium-ion powered cars would not satisfy most consumers, since such batteries are costly and still hold less than half the energy of gasoline by weight, asserts Masaaki Kato, president of Honda Motor Co.'s research unit.

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