The Nikkei Business Daily has reported that Toyota plans to produce between 20,000 and 30,000 plug-in hybrids in 2012. The Japanese automaker has already committed to leasing 500 plug-ins for government and corporate use by the end of this year.

The plan is hardly a surprise. While traditional hybrids continue to gain popularity, plug-ins are viewed as the next technological advancement towards cleaner, more efficient vehicles offering the same range and convenience of today's gas powered cars.

Pricing is still an obstacle for the average consumer though. Toyota says they plan to offer their plug-in hybrids at about the same price as Mitsubishi's all-electric i-MiEV, which goes for around $47,000. For that money, you could also get a luxurious and powerful Lexus GS350.

The plug-ins will use lithium-ion batteries developed jointly with Panasonic and they'll go nearly 19 miles before using a drop of gas. That's less than half the anticipated range of the Chevy Volt which is expected to bow at the end of 2010.

Nevertheless, prepare for a battle royale in the plug-in hybrid market between the reborn General and their strongest foreign competition.

Source: Reuters