Toyota will use Tokyo Olympics to debut solid-state battery electric vehicle

Solid-state batteries are the holy grail of battery technology for automakers, but it'll be a while before they reach production.

2020 Toyota 86 with TRD Handling Package
Toyota

Toyota has largely kept quiet on electric cars, instead focusing on its hybrid Prius lineup and hydrogen fuel cell technology. Next decade, that's set to change, and the automaker will kick things off next year in a big way.

Speaking to Autocar on Tuesday, Toyota Chief Technology Officer Shigeki Terashi said the automaker will debut a vehicle equipped with a solid-state battery next year. The location? The 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Toyota has been keen to use the international spotlight to flex its muscles regarding self-driving car technology and zero-emissions powertrains.

Toyota confirmed Terashi's comments with Roadshow but underscored he "did not specify which vehicle it will be."

Solid-state batteries are, frankly, a big deal for automakers. They do not use a liquid electrolyte, as is the norm for today's lithium-ion batteries. The lack of a liquid property makes them far better suited to fast charging, plus they're far more energy dense (good for long driving ranges) and overheating risks are nearly eliminated with the technology.

The problem is there isn't really a proper mass-production process for these kinds of batteries, and until a company sorts this out, they're still not ready for prime time. Terashi acknowledged this and said while the vehicle will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a production vehicle won't be ready until the middle of next decade. But, when it is ready, it's going to find a place in a portfolio of Toyota EVs, he said.

Numerous automakers have begun the long process of researching and developing the holy grail of battery-electric vehicle technology. The US government recently awarded General Motors a grant to continue its research; Volkswagen whipped out its wallet last year to pour millions into the technology and Toyota, Nissan and Honda previously banded together to combine research efforts into solid-state batteries.

For the latter's effort, the three Japanese automakers hope to produce a solid-state battery pack capable of providing 340 miles of range, but by 2030, the hope is advances will lead to a battery good for 500 miles of range.

Originally published Oct. 22.

Update, Oct. 23: Adds comment from Toyota.

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