When announcing a solid-state battery partnership, Toyota displayed the sand-like electrolyte substance in a glass vessel that looks — apologies in advance — exactly like a butt plug.
As noticed by the sharp-eyed automotive aficionados at Jalopnik, there was only a single, unexplained photo of the flared-base glass container in the press release, which is otherwise unremarkable save for its promise that by the year 2027, Toyota says it'll market next-generation batteries that'll allow its electric vehicles (EVs) to travel a whopping 900 miles on a single charge.
The material inside the curiously shaped container is a solid-state electrolyte, a key component of solid-state batteries, which unlike the liquid electrolyte commonly used in the lithium-ion batteries found in most EVs, does not require any flammable liquids to operate.
For years now, carmakers like Toyota and Volkswagen have partnered with battery manufacturers like QuantumScape in efforts to replace lithium-ion batteries, which have a tendency to explode when overheated and require more time to charge than their solid-state counterparts.
While inarguably superior on the charging and safety front, however, making solid-state batteries a viable alternative to lithium-ion has been slow going, not least because, as the European Union's Transportation and Environment agency pointed out last year, solid-state batteries will likely require up to 35 percent more lithium than lithium-ion batteries. With lithium prices already through the roof and a global shortage looming, something's going to need to lubricate the market before the new tech can penetrate.
Plug It In
That massive downside, of course, wasn't mentioned in the press release announcing Toyota's partnership with the Idemitsu Kosan oil company. And as Jalopnik aptly mused, it's awfully strange that no one at either company was able to spot the butt plug-shaped gaffe.
Interestingly enough, a quick reverse image search revealed that such, er, conical containers seem to be pretty common when storing powdery chemical compounds like the solid-state secret sauce used in Toyota's electrolyte — especially in Japan, where both Toyota and Idemitsu Kosan are based.
Going down the rabbit hole a bit more, we discovered — with the help of Reddit — that these containers are called "pear-shaped flasks" or "seed bottles," which are indeed often seen on e-commerce websites out of China and Japan.
With that context, it seems like the butt plug of it all may only have occurred to Americans — or perhaps, if we're in the business of conjecture, that the conical flared-based butt plugs that are mass-produced today may have been based on these scientific vessels? The resemblance, at least, is uncanny.
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