Just a few short weeks after the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) rolled out its new Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle (AASRV), it’s released another major announcement. The TRI, in conjunction with a number of academic and tech partners, is undertaking a $35 million initiative to improve electric vehicle batteries. That news should be as welcome to Phoenix car shoppers as it is for the Bell Road Toyota staff.
Why is this initiative important? There are a few reasons. Let’s start with the vehicles themselves. A ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) like the Toyota Mirai is so called because it produces no CO2 emissions. A PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) like the produces no emissions when it’s run as an electric vehicle, producing CO2 emissions only when the gas engine is engaged. With fuel economy and emissions standards tightening worldwide even as some are moving to loosen them here at home, thinking ahead makes good business sense.
There’s another important reason as well: even though Toyota hybrid cars have only been on the market for about twenty years, the battery technology in them stretches back farther. Even though it’s been improved and refined, it’s essentially forty-year-old tech. New materials and designs should allow for lower weight, higher capacity, and longer endurance.
The Toyota Motor Corporation isn’t going it alone. In addition to existing TRI partners Stanford and MIT, R&D assistance is coming from SUNY Buffalo, the University of Michigan, the University of Connecticut, and Ilika, a UK-based material science company.