Lazaro Gamio / Axios

In an unusual statement, Toyota says it is nearing a breakthrough in a type of lithium-ion battery system that has vexed researchers for decades, and that it will unveil a family of electric cars with a jump in currently available range in the early 2020s.

Why it matters: Given the high stakes and risk of embarrassment if something goes wrong, Japanese companies virtually never flag a big tech breakthrough before it is actually produced and delivered to the market. Hence, Toyota's comparatively specific announcement suggests it is reasonably confident that it really has mastered a new battery technology, said Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Toyota says its battery is solid state, which is what has piqued the interest of the battery community:

  • If Toyota really has figured out solid state, that would allow the company sometime in the future to make a second big breakthrough — to swap in an anode made of ultra-energetic lithium metal, a substance that researchers have tried without success to get safely into lithium-ion batteries since the early 1990s.
  • The trouble with lithium metal is its volatility — it can catch fire on contact with liquid electrolyte or even the air.
  • But solid state eliminates that problem because it has no liquid.

In a statement to Axios, Toyota said it will commercialize "sulfide system all-solid batteries" that it hopes will have increased durability and improve the range of electric vehicles in which they are installed.

Toyota declined to say whether it's using a lithium metal anode. But solid state is extremely expensive to manufacture, costing hundreds of dollars per square meter, versus the $10 price needed if battery costs are to drop low enough for electric cars to challenge combustion head to head.

Hence, Viswanathan told Axios, even if Toyota's first-generation pure electrics do not start with lithium metal anodes, the company clearly is establishing a pathway to get there. "You need more energy density to bring down the cost," he said.

An electric car with a lithium metal anode would go about 20% further than current technology, or almost 300 miles on a charge, he said. As a comparison, the new Chevy Bolt goes 238 miles without recharging.

Go deeper

Uber to buy Postmates in $2.65 billion deal

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uber has agreed to acquire food delivery company Postmates for $2.65 billion in an all-stock deal, the companies announced Monday.

Why it matters: This is the latest merger for the food delivery space as the sector undergoes an ongoing market consolidation.

Analysts expect soaring stock market despite slashed earnings forecasts

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Despite cutting expectations for companies' earnings by the most in history and revenue by the most since 2009, Wall Street analysts are getting increasingly bullish on the overall direction of the U.S. stock market.

What's happening: Equity analysts are expecting earnings in the second quarter to fall by 43.8% — the most since 2008's fourth quarter 69.1% decline.

Case growth outpacing testing in coronavirus hotspots

Data: The COVID Tracking Project. Note: Vermont and Hawaii were not included because they have fewer than 20 cases per day. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The United States' alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't due to increased testing — particularly not where cases have grown fastest over the last month.

Why it matters: The U.S. doesn't yet know what it looks like when a pandemic rages on relatively unchecked after the health system has become overwhelmed. It may be about to find out.