Toyota secures lithium-ion battery supplier for future hybrid vehicles

One of ToMoCo”s sister companies secured a supply deal in Argentina today whereby the world”s largest automaker would have access to a supply of lithium that could help them keep their lead in gasoline-electric hybrid cars. Lithium is expected to show an increase in demand as its costly but more efficient nature makes it the leading choice of metal to power hybrid and electric vehicles.

Toyota currently uses nickel-metal-hydride batteries for the Prius hybrid, but plans on using lithium-ion for their future models. Battery supply has long been the main hurdle that comes along with hybrid production, and Toyota is securing its future and position in the hybrid game by securing the materials it is going to need for its future battery production.

The new batteries are to be jointly developed by Toyota subsidiary Toyota Tsusho Corp., and Australian based Orocobre Ltd. Subject to final approval, Toyota Tsusho will acquire a 25 percent equity interest in the joint venture while Orocobre will retain the other 75% and continue to operate the venture.

As part of their efforts to secure stable sources of rare metals, the Japanese government-affiliated firm Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. seeks to take a part of Toyota Tsuho”s stake in the project. “With other countries, such as China, investing in mines around the world, we want to be more aggressive to support the private sector in securing stable supplies.” said Hiroshi Kuwayama, a deputy director at Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

Bolivia holds around one half of the world”s lithium reserves, but does not yet mine the metal. China, Chile, and Brazil also hold large reserves.

– By: Stephen Calogera

Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)