Toyota's Cartridge Batteries Are The Answer To Long Charge Times

Technology / 13 Comments

Swappable battery pack cartridges could help make servicing simpler.

Tesla has begun implementing structural battery packs in some of its EVs, but over in Japan, it has decided that it should instead concentrate on researching "the standardization and commercialization of replaceable and rechargeable cartridge batteries." The research will be handled by Commerical Japan Partnership Technologies Corporation (CJPT) - launched by Toyota in collaboration with Isuzu Motors and Hino Motors - and Yamamoto Transport. As the names of those entities indicate, this research will focus on keeping downtime for commercial EVs to a minimum. That being said, the research could well determine that swappable battery packs are suitable for regular vehicles too.

Toyota
Toyota

Interestingly, BMW has said that swappable battery tech is a waste of time, noting that it is logistically "not expedient." Meanwhile, Tesla competitor Nio has seemingly perfected the concept, with the Chinese automaker able to swap a battery pack in just three minutes.

Toyota has the greatest number of solid-state battery patents in hand, so we suspect that battery swapping won't be the norm for conventional EVs. Fair enough, but why look into the idea for commercial vehicles? For one thing, solid-state batteries are still a long way off. For another, commercial vehicles cover large distances every day, and long charging times would put these vehicles at a standstill.

Toyota also notes that, when commercial EVs become the norm, there will be "a potential increase in peak electricity demand at business sites when numerous vehicles are being recharged at the same time."

One of the principal challenges presented by commercial battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is recharging that takes longer than the refuelling time for conventional petrol and diesel vehicles. This causes an increase in logistics downtime, when vehicles and cargo are at a standstill, a challenge that a so-called EV battery swap could alleviate. - Toyota

Should Toyota's research prove fruitful, the benefits are huge. Costs can be reduced by limiting battery capacity to match the actual driving range requirements. If a vehicle has a morning delivery route, for example, of around 100 miles, it doesn't need more range. As such, it also will have a lower mass, and when it returns to HQ, a fresh battery pack can be swapped in during the driver's lunch break.

In addition, the requirement for charging infrastructure will be reduced, and battery packs can be charged while the vehicles are out and about, reducing peak power demand. And who knows? Perhaps the research will prove so fruitful that we see swappable batteries come to vehicles like the Toyota bZ4X and others.

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