The brand's patience will pay off big time in a few years.
By now, we all know the arguments against going electric by heart. The range is limited, they take too long to recharge, and they pose a greater fire risk.
There is a solution to all of the above, and it's not discussed enough. The solid-state battery represents a giant leap forward for the EV market. This battery will change the EV landscape as much if not more than the Tesla Model S. The manufacturer in the lead toward introducing the first car equipped with solid-state batteries will have a significant advantage over the rest, and right now, that's Toyota.
According to a recent study done by Nikkei, Toyota is the owner of more solid-state patents, despite its hesitancy to go full electric. While the Japanese brand is well-known for being a frontrunner in the new energy race due to its early investment in hybrids, its first-ever EV only made its debut recently.
It likely provides an answer to why Toyota has waited so long. It introduced the bZ4X and has plans to introduce an entire range of EVs, but it might be waiting for solid-state technology to become fully viable. That way, it can skip over a whole generation of EVs that will become irrelevant when solid-state batteries go mainstream.
The main reason why it hasn't happened yet is cost. As it currently stands, a solid-state battery costs roughly four times as much as the average lithium-ion counterpart. Getting that cost down will be crucial, and Toyota is in a prime position to do so.
To conduct the study, Nikkei partnered with Patent Result. It studied every solid-state patent, dating back to the 1990s when Toyota first started looking into the viability of these batteries.
Toyota owns 1,331 patents, followed by Panasonic Holdings in second place. The latter holds a mere 445 patents. Idemitsu Kosan has 272, which means the future of solid-state battery technology is entirely in the hands of Japan. Toyota and Panasonic also entered a partnership in 2019, placing them far ahead of smaller companies like the US-based Solid Power (SP).
SP is relevant as it's currently in the final stages of developing cells for automotive qualification testing. It's partnered with BMW and Ford.
Toyota only plans on going fully electric in 2035 and it will test solid-state batteries in its hybrid and plug-in hybrid portfolio first. The most likely candidates are the evergreen Prius and top-selling RAV4 Prime.