Toyota will launch a long-range electric car that will be able to recharge in just a few minutes in 2022, reports Reuters, citing the Japanese newspaper Chunichi Shimbun.
That would mark a major turnaround for Toyota, which only recently embraced battery-electric cars. The new car's long range (a specific number wasn't quoted in either report) and remarkably quick charging time will reportedly be achieved by using solid-state batteries. These batteries use a solid electrolyte instead of the liquid used in conventional lithium-ion battery cells.
The solid electrolyte is nonflammable, and proponents of solid-state batteries have made claims of better performance. But the technology hasn't been applied to electric cars yet. General Motors invested in solid-state battery startup Sakti3 before the company was bought by Dyson, which seems more interested in using the batteries for its line of cordless vacuum cleaners. Toyota could become the first automaker to use these batteries in a production car.
The new Toyota electric car will ride on an all-new platform, and will be sold only in Japan initially, according to the report. A Toyota spokeswoman would not confirm plans for the car, but told Reuters that the company does plan to commercialize solid-state battery technology by the early 2020s.
Toyota previously was all-in on hydrogen fuel cells, claiming battery-electric cars would never be able to meet consumer demands because of short ranges and long charging times. But the company has had difficulty developing hydrogen fueling infrastructure for its Mirai, which currently sells in very small numbers.
Late last year, reports began circulating that Toyota would introduce its first mass-market electric car in 2020, and that CEO Akio Toyoda would lead the development team. Toyota previously sold small batches of electric cars to meet California's zero-emission-vehicle mandate, including the second-generation RAV4 EV, developed with help from Tesla.
An electric car powered by solid-state batteries than recharge in a few minutes would overshadow all of these efforts; it would show that Toyota is serious about electric cars, and potentially allow the Japanese automaker to leapfrog its competitors. But that assumes solid-state battery technology lives up to the hype—and as with all experimental tech, there is no guarantee of that.