Toyota Teams Up With Universities to Research Electric-Car Batteries

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -
(Reuters/Toru Hanai/File)

Toyota plans to spend $35 million on partnerships with several universities, including Stanford, to study ways to make better batteries for electric cars.

The Japanese automaker said the universities will use artificial intelligence to test different battery chemistry combinations and to explore whether other materials, such as magnesium, could be used to make better batteries, said Brian Storey, program manager for the Toyota Research Institute.

Today’s hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles are powered by lithium ion batteries — a technology that Storey said was invented nearly 40 years ago.

“And we are just now beginning to perfect them,” Storey said.

Existing batteries continue to be costly and have range limitations that have held back industry sales compared with cheaper but less fuel-efficient gasoline engines.

Storey said Toyota and its university partners want to explore new ways of designing batteries, new ways of combining battery chemistry and other materials.

“There is an infinite number of knobs that you can tune when you are doing development work,” Storey said. “The hope is that the use of artificial intelligence will help us sort through the infinite number of things you can do.”

Toyota’s initial partners include Stanford University, MIT, the University of Michigan, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of Connecticut and the British-based materials science company Ilika. Toyota Research Institute also is in ongoing discussions with additional research partners.

Toyota said the programs will follow parallel paths, as researchers work to identify new materials for use in future energy systems as well as to develop tools and processes that can accelerate the design and development of new materials more broadly.

The Toyota Research Institute, created in 2015, was established to conduct research into auto safety for autonomous cars, increase access to mobility for those who otherwise cannot drive and help translate outdoor mobility technology into products for indoor mobility.