Toyota is touting its progress on a new kind of battery technology, which uses a solid electrolyte instead of the conventional semi-liquid version used in today’s lithium-ion batteries. The car maker said that it’s near a breakthrough in production engineering that could help it put the new tech in production electric vehicles as early as 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The improved battery technology would make it possible to create smaller, more lightweight lithium-ion batteries for use in EVs, that could also potentially boost the total charge capacity and result in longer-range vehicles.
Another improvement for this type of battery would be longer overall usable life, which would make it possible to both use the vehicles they’re installed in for longer, and add potential for product recycling and alternative post-vehicle life (some companies are already looking into putting EV batteries into use in home and commercial energy storage, for example).
Batteries remain a key limiting factor for electric vehicle design, because of how far tech companies focused on the problem have pushed existing science. The move to solid state would help make room for more gains in terms of charge capacity achieved in the footprint available in consumer vehicles, while helping to push further existing efficiencies achieved through things like the use of ultra-light materials in car frames and interiors.
Toyota isn’t saying yet where its batteries will end up, but any edge here is bound to be a big boon for automakers looking at a future that increasingly seems like it’ll be dominated by EVs.