Section 1. The Inventions and Ideas of Sakichi Toyoda

Item 6. Support for Development and Invention of Electricity Storage Devices

Donation of research grants and prize money towards invention of electricity storage devices

In 1925 Sakichi Toyoda asked the Imperial Institute of Invention and Innovation to investigate the conditions and methods for donating prize money in order to offer a one million yen prize for developing a revolutionary electricity storage device (storage battery).

This move was spurred by the first aerial circumnavigation of the earth by the United States Army Air Service in 1924, conducted in a Douglas aircraft and taking 351 hours and 11 minutes of flight time over 176 days from March 17 to September 28.1 Japan was on the flight path from the Aleutian Islands to Indochina and India.

Sakichi was inspired by this flight around the world, and came up with the idea of offering a monetary prize for invention of a storage battery for mobile use. Accordingly, he envisioned that the research should focus on a storage battery used to power automobiles and airplanes. However, development of such a storage device was extremely difficult, and as a result of the study by the Imperial Institute of Invention and Innovation it was decided to begin by offering research grants, and to offer the one million yen prize money when creation of such a device became more realistic.

The contract Sakichi concluded with the Imperial Institute of Invention and Innovation on October 15, 1925 agreed to donate 500,000 yen to a fund over five years, and in the case where the annual interest of that fund was less than 30,000 yen, Sakichi would provide the difference. In addition, as a part of efforts to encourage development of a storage battery, the Toyoda Research Office would be established within the Imperial Institute of Invention and Innovation. This office would be the central body responsible for driving the effort to develop the required technology. The first recruitment for intermediate inventions took place in 1927, followed by a second recruitment in 1931 and a third stage in 1935.

Kiichiro inherited Sakichi’s expectations and thinking concerning storage batteries, and established a battery research laboratory in Shibaura, Tokyo and began storage battery production at the Shibaura Plant in 1939. Kiichiro also directed that development of an electric vehicle should start, and prototype production of the Model EC electric car equipped with a storage battery and non-combustion engine (motor) began in about 1940.

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