A while back, I wrote an article about a potential lithium-ion replacement battery pack for Prius. This article will cover what I can tell you so far about the proprietary system and what you can expect.
Why Has Toyota Not Used Lithium Ion?
Toyota now does use lithium-ion; they used only nickel-metal though for a long time. As someone who has studied battery characteristics for a few years now, I can tell you that nickel metal is a thing of the past.
Once hailed as "the solution" to the Nickel Cadmium problem, we now know Nickel Metal suffers from a similar but less severe. Nickel Metal has been a bridge technology that has seen plenty of research time and can now be laid to rest.
For the longest time, Toyota would not use anything but NiMh because they felt Li-ion did not have "enough research" to understand the technology entirely.
They were right in many respects and kept using their proven method for nearly two decades. Then Toyota finally accepted Li-ion in their most modern hybrids and use it almost exclusively today.
But what does this mean for older aging Prius that are still on the road and loved by millions? Here is the answer to that question.
New Tech To Refresh Your Old Prius
When I caught wind that there could be a better replacement battery for the aging Prius, I had to know more. I found out who was doing the prototyping and got a hold of them.
The battery builder told me that we could not reveal anything about the battery other than it was a test to see how well this tech would fare in the real world.
I was excited and swore that I would keep this under wraps as much as possible, which I have. The good thing is I can now tell you more about it.
The battery I have for testing is a module replacement for your existing battery platform. I removed all the old (and heavy) nickel-metal modules and replaced them with lighter and newer Lithium-Ion modules.
I noticed that the battery had far less weight by a good 40 to 60 pounds. The Li-ion is significantly lighter. The test boxes that hold the new battery tech allow only one side of the busbars to be used, making installation relatively easy.
My battery was a little challenging to work with where I had 3D printed module boxes, but I made it work overall. I can tell you that the go-to-market batteries will have a better design and will be easier to use. This brings up my next point, when could we see this go to market.
I do not know when we will see this going to market, but I can tell you it is in progress, so I will give you more info when I know more on that.
I used the battery on my well-aged 2008 Prius. I was getting 39 mpg before, and the car did not go into EV. Now I get 47 miles per gallon, and I stay in EV range for almost 3 miles when the battery is charged fully.
The combination of a more energy-dense battery and lighter are two significant contributors that will boost your MPG. So far, I can tell you that the conversion is safe (3000 miles driven now), and it will breathe new life into your old Prius.
Any questions? Please find me on Twitter @the_hybrid_guy. I am happy to answer what I can about these conversions. That is all for today; I look forward to seeing you in the next article.
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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.