According to a source close to the matter, Toyota will buy batteries from Sanyo Electric Co. to keep up with the growing demand for hybrid vehicles. The announcement is not official, but in lieu of recently released stories regarding Toyota's choice to stick with NiMH batteries and Toyota's secretive testing of lithium-ion Priuses, the info provides more conflicting thoughts coming from the company. Is Toyota's future powered by NiMH or Li-Ion?
According to the source, Toyota will begin using the lithium-ion batteries provided by Sanyo as early as 2011. They will begin with only 10,000 units per year from Sanyo, the world's largest producer of rechargeable batteries.
It was not revealed if Toyota plans to use the Sanyo lithium-ion batteries in upcoming hybrid or EV models, but their current crop of hybrids utilize NiMH batteries, not the advanced li-ion units found in most EVs and plug-in hybrids.
The addition of another battery supplier for Toyota is expected as their current supplier, Panasonic, is having difficulty keeping up with demand. Panasonic is trying to increase production capabilities as soon as possible, but may be unable to keep up with demand for Toyota and Lexus hybrid models.
Currently, Toyota has a back order on the new Prius that could keep customers waiting up to 8 months for delivery and Lexus with 10,000 orders of their new HS 250h hybrid has a back order nearly 6 months long.
Any additional battery makers will help Toyota overcome unexpected demand in the future, but why Toyota is waiting until 2011 to utilize batteries from Sanyo is anyone's guess. Perhaps these batteries will find their way into the electric minivan or electric minicar, or even a yet to be announced plug-in hybrid or EV coming from Toyota around the same time.