2007 Toyota Prius Touring Edition

Toyota Hybrid X Concept
LTC embraces lithium battery technology while Toyota may be backtracking a bit

Lithium Technology Corporation (LTC) has announced its new line of batteries to be used in all-electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. LTC's battery packs are composed of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) cells.

"Batteries made of LTC's cells can provide 3000 charging cycles, which would be able to do 150,000 miles to 80% capacity for a 100 km or 60 mile all electric range plug in hybrid, which no other technology can claim," said Dr. Andrew Frank, Professor, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at the University of California, Davis.

To show the power of its new LiFePO4 cells, LTC rolled out a retrofitted Toyota Prius with plug-in capabilities. The 7 kWh battery is made up of 63 LTC LiFePO4 cells and boosts the Prius from 46MPG combined (city/highway) to 125MPG.

It is unclear whether LTC is citing the old 2007 EPA mileage estimates or the new 2008 EPA estimates which aren't very kind to hybrid-electric vehicles. If LTC is still citing 2007 EPA estimates, the retrofitted Prius would still likely achieve 100MPG+ when taking into account 2008 guidelines.

While the use of lithium-based batteries give hybrid vehicles more power and endurance to run longer on battery power, it appears that Toyota may actually be shying away from the technology for its next-generation Prius and other hybrid vehicles. Nikkan Koyogo, a Japanese newspaper, reports that Toyota may be postponing the use of lithium-ion batteries due to safety issues.

The company has seen a rise in vehicle recalls in recent months. And just recently, the company admitted that a manufacturing defect from its supplier has led to camshaft failures in its brand new 5.7 liter V8 engine.

A potential widespread recall due to the batteries used in its high-profile Prius could do some serious damage to the company's reputation, so Toyota is likely trying to play it safe.

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