Toyota believes it's found a way to create more efficient EV batteries.
Toyota calls its method, which allows a free flow of lithium ions from the cathode to the anode, the "world's first behavior observation method for lithium ions in electrolyte."
Charging and discharging batteries can create lithium ion deviation. Some of these ions can get bunched up, which can affect a battery's performance over time. In order to help reduce that bunching, scientists need to see what's happening as the ions flow through the battery's electrolyte. That observation wasn't possible until now.
Toyota made has replaced the phosphorous in a traditional lithium-ion battery electrolyte with heavier elements. These heavier elements, which ferry the ions through the electrolyte, are then bombarded with powerful x-rays, which allows researchers to observe how the ions flow through.
So what does this all mean? By observing the lithium ions in the electrolyte, research and development dollars can be spent on preventing the bunching that degrades battery performance. Toyota believes its breakthrough can improve electric vehicle range by up to 15 percent and improve the battery's life simultaneously.
Right now, Toyota doesn't have a battery electric to which it could apply this knowledge. The company only recently started using lithium-ion batteries in lieu of older, more traditional nickel metal hydride batteries. The company reportedly cut back on hydrogen vehicle development in favor of working on battery-electric vehicles, so these R&D efforts won't go straight to the competition.
The science behind battery technology might be enough to put most people to sleep, but it's a vital component for ushering in batteries that have enough charge and a long enough life to appeal to a wide swath of buyers around the world.