Toyota is preparing to rev up production of hybrids, and yesterday said that it was opening its third plant in Japan for producing batteries that are key components for the "green" cars.
Just last week, it announced that it was building a second such battery plant.
Toyota Motor Corp has emerged as the world leader in hybrids with its hit Prius, which has sold more than a cumulative 1 million vehicles over the last decade. Sometime after 2010, it hopes to sell 1 million hybrids a year.
For that, it needs to boost battery production as Honda Motor Co and other automakers aim to catch up with their new gas-and-electric hybrids — a technology that is growing in appeal for the world’s drivers as gas prices soar.
The ¥30 billion (US$291 million) plant in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan, will be operated by Panasonic EV Energy Co, Toyota’s joint venture with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.
Set to be running by 2010, the factory will make nickel-metal hydride batteries, with production capacity at 200,000 a year, with start-up production at about half of that.
The latest move follows a similar announcement just last week about Toyota’s plans to build a ¥20 billion plant in Shizuoka, in central Japan, also to produce nickel-metal hydride batteries for gas-electric hybrid vehicles.
Hybrids reduce pollution and emissions that are linked to global warming by switching between a gasoline engine and an electric motor to deliver better mileage than comparable standard cars.
Last week, Honda, Japan’s second-biggest automaker after Toyota, said that it would boost hybrid sales to 500,000 a year by sometime after 2010.
Honda said it would introduce a new hybrid-only model next year for a lineup of four hybrids.
• Toyota has sold more than 1 million of its Prius hybrid vehicle in the last decade. It hopes to be selling 1 million hybrids per year by 2010.
• Honda plans to sell 500,000 hybrid vehicles a year after 2010. It plans to introduce a new hybrid-only model next year for a lineup of four hybrids.
• Nissan still hasn’t developed its own commercial hybrid vehicle. It hopes to have its own original hybrid by 2010. Nissan plans to start mass-producing lithium-ion batteries for use in hybrid cars next year in a joint venture with NEC Corp.
Nissan Motor Co, which still hasn’t developed its own hybrid for commercial sale, said it would have its original hybrid by 2010.
Nissan says its joint venture with electronics maker NEC Corp would start mass-producing lithium-ion batteries next year at a plant in Japan.
Lithium-ion batteries, which are now common in laptops, produce more power and are smaller than nickel-metal hydride batteries. Toyota has said lithium-ion batteries may be used in plug-in hybrids, which can be recharged from a home electrical outlet, but it has not given details about a plant for such batteries.