Toyota Denies Battery Woes Delay Prius
By YURI KAGEYAMA | AP Business Writer
9:26 AM EDT, September 28, 2007
TOYOTA, Japan - Introduction of the next version of Toyota's hit Prius
gas-electric hybrid won't hinge on the development of a more efficient
battery called lithium-ion, a senior Toyota executive said Friday.
The executive brushed off a recent Wall Street Journal report that said
Toyota Motor Corp. was delaying the launch of the next-generation Prius
by as much as two years because of problems in developing the
lithium-ion battery. Hybrids on sale now use nickel-metal-hydride batteries.
The Toyota official, who requested anonymity because he is not
authorized to speak on the matter, said various innovations for the next
Prius are being considered -- not just the lithium-ion battery.
He said some type of lithium-ion battery is preferable for hybrid
vehicles because they are lighter and pack more power than
nickel-metal-hydride batteries. He acknowledged that the lithium-ion
battery had not been perfected.
But he denied that the problems Sony Corp. had with its laptop
lithium-ion batteries raised safety concerns at Toyota, as the Journal
had reported, stressing that potential battery problems were long known
to Toyota engineers. Sony recalled millions of laptop batteries after
reports of fires.
Hybrid competition is intensifying as gas prices and environmental
Last month, General Motors Corp. said it had signed an agreement with
A123 Systems Inc., a battery maker that already produces millions of
lithium-ion batteries for use in cordless power tools.
At that time, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said the technology could be
applied to autos, giving GM a chance to beat Toyota in the race to bring
plug-in hybrid and electric cars to market.
Toyota's hybrid vehicles, which deliver better mileage by switching
between a gas engine and electric motor, have been a huge hit. The
automaker has sold more than a million hybrid vehicles around the world
in the past decade -- more than any other automaker.
Toyota, has not given a sales date for the world's most popular hybrid,
which first went on sale in 1997.