Automotive News (sub) reports that Toyota is investing $673m in new Japanese battery facilities, with the goal of building one million batteries per year by 2011. A new nickel-metal hydride plant is planned for northern Japan, and a new lithium-ion plant will be built southwest of Tokyo. They're also adding to an existing metal-hydride facility as Toyota expands operations to meet the million hybrid vehicles per year demand it expects in the next decade. Toyota's batteries are built by Panasonic EV Energy Co, a joint venture between Panasonic and Toyota. Details are not currently available for the two new plants, but once expanded, the existing metal-hydride plant will build 300k batteries per year. Reports indicate that lithium-ion production will not exceed the tens of thousands, indicating that Toyota will continue to rely on its proven metal-hydride technology for most hybrid applications. With Nissan jumping into lithium-ion production, and Honda announcing an increased hybrid lineup, Toyota's investment is a necessary step in building on its enviable lead in hybrid production. With about 430k hybrids sold last year, and sales of the gas-electric whips rising at a steady clip, Toyota should have few problems selling a million hybrids annually within the next five years.
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