The current Toyota Prius and Lexus hybrid vehicles use Nickel-Metal hydride batteries, which have proven reliable but not sufficient for electric vehicles or new-generation plug-in hybrid cars looking for extended electric-power-only range.
Toyota will eventually buy lithium ion batteries on mass from Japan's Sanyo Electric Co., a move away from Primearth EV Energy Co., which has supplied the Big T's Nickel-Metal hydride batteries for some time (and is 80.5 percent owned by Toyota).
So far it's unconfirmed which new vehicles will gain Lithium-Ion technology but Japanese sources have suggested the MPV-sized Prius which is expected to hit Japanese showrooms next year could be the first.
Primearth was originally founded by Panasonic and Toyota (60:40 shareholding split) but is now majority owned by Toyota whilst Panasonic has bought a majority stake in Sanyo, one of the leading companies in Lithium-ion technology.
Sanyo will also supply lithium-ion batteries to Suzuki and Volkswagen.
The Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the first two mass produced electric cars in the world, both use lithium-ion batteries (so does your mobile phone).