Business / Corporate

Toyota shifts battery-recycling operation for hybrids to Thailand

Nna/kyodo

Toyota Motor Corp. has started recycling hybrid-vehicle batteries in Thailand, aiming to establish a sustainable process for the power source behind eco-friendly cars and cut costs.

The carmaker said at Friday’s launch event it is reusing nickel-metal hydride batteries by utilizing some of them as storage cells for nonvehicular uses, and extracting minerals from them to make brand-new batteries in Japan.

It is part of an effort by Toyota — which began battery production in Thailand in May, its first such move in Southeast Asia — to electrify all vehicles by 2025.

Under the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Battery Life Cycle Management (3R Scheme) project, Toyota Motor Thailand Co. collects and inspects used batteries and sorts them into three types of usage, depending on level of deterioration, at a plant in Chachoengsao province, east of Bangkok.

The plant — run by TTK Logistics (Thailand) Co., an arm of trading house Toyota Tsusho Corp. — can check 10,000 batteries per year, Chairman Ninnart Chaithirapinyo of Toyota’s Thai unit, told reporters Friday.

Toyota Motor Thailand sells the recycled batteries at only a third of the cost of a brand-new product. Moderately deteriorated batteries are reused as storage cells mainly for solar power at buildings and factories, Ninnart said.

It then eliminates hazardous substances from the damaged batteries and ships them to Japan to extract reusable raw materials, such as nickel and cobalt, to make new batteries for hybrid vehicles, according to the chairman.

“We believe that the 3R Scheme will significantly reduce the cost of hybrid batteries, mitigate negative environmental impact and establish a solid foundation in preparation for the future growth of the electrified vehicle market,” said Michinobu Sugata, president of Toyota Motor Thailand. Toyota will also accept batteries from other carmakers and other industries for recycling, Sugata added.

The Thai arm of Toyota had relied on its Belgium operation for the recycling process, shipping about 5,000 to 6,000 used batteries annually, according to Sugata.

The carmaker, which has a share of more than 30 percent in the Thai auto market, has sold 78,000 hybrid vehicles there since it released a Camry hybrid sedan in 2009.