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3 Reasons Toyota Is Phasing Out Nickel-Metal Hybrid Battery Packs

Do you wonder why there are far fewer nickel-metal hybrid packs in Prius and other hybrid models? Here is the scoop on why Toyota is phasing out the technology.

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Do you know how many hybrid options Toyota currently offers with a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack? Very few I know there is one Prius option with the AWD-e. Just about every other model that is a two-wheel-drive uses lithium technology.

The question is, why the change? What caused Toyota to dive into the lithium market after 2 decades of staying with NiMH? There are three acceptable answers to this, all of which I will explain.

Reason 1: We Have Advanced As A Society
Evolution happens whether we want it to or not. The wheels of industry are always turning to crank out "the next big thing." For 20 years, Toyota has kept using a proven method of power over modern tech.

2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell

I am referring to the use of Nickel Metal Hydride battery technology against Lithium-ion. Toyota was right to use NiMH for so long. That battery tech has been a trooper. It has lived through some of the worst conditions known and still came out fighting. I will always appreciate the use of it.

The thing is the whole reason we have NiMH is that we evolved away from using NiCd or Nickel Cadmium batteries. NiCad is a far inferior battery tech to NiMH, and as such, we have seen the demise of it.

Now we are advancing again, and there is a new contender.

Reason 2: Research Proves Better Tech Is Now Availble
I had someone argue with me that Lithium-Ion does not have enough research. Yeah, ok, how about the last 15 years of research from companies like Panasonic, Quantumscape, Samsung, Apple, Sony, and a plethora of others.

Did I mention Tesla has also been doing Lithium research along with Hyundai, Ford, GM, and a handful of major car companies? Please, the no research thing is a total sham.

2009 Tesla Roadster WhiteLithium technology is one of the most researched battery chemistry types because it is so commonly used. Even Toyota, who is the epitome of hesitant, is using it in their hybrids right now.

Lithium has millions of logged miles in research. Yes, it has had issues yes, but those issues have been mitigated by improving the technology.

Reason 3: Weight Savings
Lithium is far lighter than NiMH. I have hinted at a lithium replacement pack for Prius, and I will let you in on a little secret. The new replacement modules are over 50% lighter than the NiMH counterparts.

While this may not seem very significant in an older Prius, think about it for new cars. Weight is everything. The lighter the vehicle, the better performance and fuel economy your vehicle can get. With all the EPA regulations on U.S. automakers, the race to get the most lightweight car is on.

If you can have a plug-in car that weighs 1,000 pounds less because you are using Lithium as opposed to NiMH, well, you get the picture.

There are various other reasons that Lithium is better technology. Still, you will have to wait for that article because this is all for today. Toyota is till utilizing NiMH in cars like Corolla and Sienna, but as they do move forward with their research in lithium, particularly Lithium polymer, we will see the demise of the NiMH.

Thank you so much for reading, and yes, the new Prius pack is coming very soon. I will give you more updates as soon as possible. Need a 12v battery for your Prius? Check out my 4-way battle to see what is the best option.

Check out this wild new battery tech that Tesla has and why it will forever change the auto industry.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.

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Stephen Beckwith (not verified)    March 5, 2021 - 7:56AM

Yea, but. . . . Lithium Batteries are a Toxic Hazard Waste nightmare. At least the NiMH batteries are recycleable. We need research into how to recycle/restore old batteries before we create a truly nasty nightmare for future generations.

Peter Neilson    March 6, 2021 - 2:24PM

In reply to by Stephen Beckwith (not verified)

That is why Toyota wants to move to solid-state. They do utilize NiMH in a handful of their vehicles still because it is proven but they use lithium in Prius and others to see long-term benefits. Toyota is putting money on solid-state over lithium in this regard.

Jennifer Sirtl (not verified)    December 13, 2021 - 2:51PM

In reply to by Stephen Beckwith (not verified)

My Prius II is 15 years working. It has a NiMH-Battery and the battery is still alive. Im tacking every refueling and the consumption since the first day. consumption stays constant, a indicator recuperation is working fine.
A Lithium-battery will degrade in time, don't like to be charged full and don't like to be empty. It hates cold and hot temperatures, high charge-/discharge-rates. Lithium batteries are fine in portables, but in rough automotive environment, from my opinion, i don't thrust in a 15-year-lifetime of a Lithium-battery.

James Dickinson (not verified)    March 5, 2021 - 10:50PM

My 14 year old Prius just keeps me smiling. Constant 45mpg. I am now passing it on to my 16 year old grand daughter.

Chad H (not verified)    March 11, 2021 - 8:53PM

A vapid, cliche ridden article by someone who doesn't show any indication of knowing all that much about batteries.

Ron (not verified)    April 13, 2021 - 4:20PM

I hear of old Toyota hybrids doing 15 years and 300,000 miles on the original battery. No one is making predictions like that for lithium that I know of. And if weight were such a big issue, no one would have lithium BEV’s.