If Panasonic gets its way, your average laptop battery could be the electric vehicle power source of the future. The Japanese consumer electronics company announced Thursday that it has developed a method of binding standard lithium-ion batteries together (Tesla Motors style), for use in automotive applications.

The company says the new technology should cut EV battery manufacturing costs in half, because it can take advantage of existing production facilities and know-how. Until now, battery packs in EVs have been specially designed and in some cases, assembled by hand, to meet the needs of a specific vehicle. As a result, road-ready electric vehicles have been cost prohibitive when compared to equivalent gas models.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV lists for the equivalent of $51,000 in Japan before government subsidies. A number of sources have reported that Chevy's Volt plug-in hybrid could sell for more than $40,000. The performance oriented Tesla Roadster sells for $109,000 before tax credits, but that vehicle's production costs were grossly underestimated when it first came to market.

Panasonic says the newly developed batteries should be available within four years, and if your home is ready for it, they'll store electricity from solar panels and fuel cells too.

Sources: Reuters, Green Car Advisor, Panasonic