‘World-first’ NTO battery-powered bus unveiled

E-bus powered by next-gen lithium-ion batteries using NTO anodes

NTO battery-powered electric bus prototype The NTO battery-powered bus prototype was unveiled in an opening ceremony at CBMM’s industrial plant in Araxá, Brazil. (Photo: Toshiba, Sojitz, CBMM)

Toshiba Corp. and Sojitz Corp. of Japan and Brazilian niobium producer CBMM have completed development of a next-generation lithium-ion battery that uses niobium titanium oxide (NTO) in the anode. They also unveiled a prototype E-bus powered with the new battery, which they said has an ultra-fast charge time of around 10 minutes and delivers high energy density.

“The use of niobium oxide in the anode of lithium-ion batteries brings special characteristics for this component. As it hosts lithium at an inherently stable voltage, it provides safer and more efficient operation,” explained Rogério Ribas, technical head of Battery Program at CBMM. “In addition, due to its open crystalline structure, which facilitates the intercalation of lithium, it allows a full recharge in less than 10 minutes, without causing damage to the battery.

“Due to these unique characteristics, niobium-containing batteries are safer and have a much longer lifespan than traditional batteries.”

These characteristics, along with double the theoretical volume density of the graphite-based anode generally used in lithium-ion batteries, led Toshiba, Sojitz and CBMM to sign a joint agreement to explore NTO’s potential in June 2018, the announcement noted. The companies subsequently signed a joint development agreement in September 2021 that extended their collaboration to mass production processes of next-generation batteries, mainly targeting application in commercial EVs.

In August 2023, the companies entered into a broad joint sales and marketing agreement, and in May this year, they signed a memorandum of understanding on strengthening the supply chain and business promotion.

The NTO battery-powered bus prototype, unveiled in an opening ceremony at CBMM’s industrial plant in Araxá, Brazil, was developed by Volkswagen Truck & Bus, Brazil, which develops and mass produces electric trucks in Latin America. The E-bus has started testing and demonstration operations at the Araxá plant to provide data on the characteristics of the NTO battery and vehicle operation data, and support any adjustments needed for commercialization.

The prototype E-bus is said to be the world’s first operation of a prototype EV powered by a lithium-ion battery with NTO anodes. Toshihiko Takaoka, vice president of the Battery Division at Toshiba Corp,, said he was pleased to see the E-bus equipped with the company’s SCiB Nb NTO battery.

“In partnership with CBMM and Sojitz, Toshiba has implemented the practical use of niobium in battery material applications with the development of an NTO battery that recharges quickly and delivers high energy density,” he said. “We will continue the development work to expand our SCiB battery lineup and business.”

As one of CBMM’s shareholders and its sole agent for the Japanese market, Sojitz “has been building a stable raw material supply system and cultivating applications,” noted Koichi Yamaguchi, senior managing executive officer and president & CEO for the Americas of Sojitz Corporation.

“Through this demonstration, we are very confident that the NTO battery brings the market a new solution for the electrification of the mobilities and other applications. Taking advantage of our global sales networks and an operational presence in a wide range of industries… Sojitz will play major roles in the project with regards to supply chain management as well as accelerating business development including sales activities,” he added.

All three companies plan to continue to work together to maximize the use of their respective technologies and knowledge toward launching the lithium-ion battery with NTO anode in the global market in Spring 2025.

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