Toyota Announces Plans To Build $50 Million Battery Lab At U.S. R&D Campus, Announces Separate STEM Investment

Toyota’s preparing to go full throttle in its efforts to prepare for an all-electric future, with the company confirming its finalizing plans to build a $50 million dollar battery lab at its state-of-the-art U.S. R&D facility in York Township, Michigan. In addition to the new battery lab, The Japanese auto giant also announced separate plans for STEM programs in local school districts.


Battery Lab To Play Key Role In Toyota’s Electrification Strategy

The battery lab is slated to play a role in reshaping the way that Toyota develops its battery packs, with the facility capable of supporting the process from the cell to the pack itself while also allowing engineers to research and ensure that the battery packs meet Toyota’s standard for quality, performance, and durability. In addition, the lab will also allow Toyota to develop new battery configurations for future products as well as new BEV platforms. Lastly, the lab will also be a crucial piece in Toyota’s attempt to complete a broader alternative fuel puzzle, with the company stating that it will continue to offer a diverse range of green fuel choices, including hydrogen. This research will also complement the firm’s existing efforts into autonomous vehicles 

Toyota says that the lab will be fully operational in 2025 and that, in addition to battery development, the facility will also explore and research Level 2 and Level 3 charging systems and connectivity to power sources and infrastructure. Those last two items are of common interest to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Representative Debbie Dingell, who were present at Toyota’s announcement. The Governor and Dingell used the opportunity to reiterate the state’s commitment to enhancing the power grid and improving charging infrastructure throughout the state and how the battery lab will help bring jobs to Michigan.

Curiously though, the Governor chose to sidestep our question on whether the state of Michigan has plans to bring electrification to the state’s web of freeway rest areas. Instead, she referred us to the three charging stations already in place at Michigan state parks, with 16 more planned in the immediate future. While this is indeed a commendable achievement, in our opinion, the state is also missing out on a massive opportunity with the former.

Currently, Michigan has 77 such areas scattered throughout the state, with 14 of them also serving as welcome centers. These rest areas help provide travelers a place to not only stretch their legs but also to take a rest before resuming their commute (reducing the risk of fatigue-induced sleepy driving.) However, none of these centers currently have any form of EV charging station. Adding stations (especially at key travel arteries) would help ease range anxiety for EV owners while also allowing the state to promote electrified travel within Michigan’s boundaries at the same time.


Toyota’s Driving Possibilities Program Will Help Mold the Next Generation Of Workers

In addition to the announcement of the new lab, Toyota also confirmed that it would be collaborating with the Lincoln Consolidated and Ypsilanti school districts as well as Eastern Michigan University to help prepare students for STEM-focused careers. The move is part of Toyota’s Driving Possibilities Initiative, with the five-year rollout being part of a $110 million dollar investment.

“Our goal is to increase awareness of future STEM careers while helping build sustainable programs in the communities where our Toyota team members live and work,” said Tellis Bethel, group vice president of social innovation, Toyota. “It’s exciting to see the expansion of Driving Possibilities near our Michigan R&D facilities, the first location announced out of the 14 additional U.S. sites planned.”

A highlight of this plan is a new STEM institute that will be available for Lincoln Consolidated and Ypsilanti Community School students ranging from elementary all the way through to high school as well as their families. The institute will be led by EMU, with the University of Michigan College of Engineering and Washtenaw Community College providing subject matter experts to the institute.