By on January 20, 2010

Argentina's lithium salt lakes (courtesy:nasa.gov)
After years of spurning lithium ion batteries in favor of Nickel metal hydride cells, it seems Toyota might changing their mind. The Wall Street Journal reports that Toyota Tsusho Corp, which is 21.8% owned by Toyota Motor Corp., has secured the loans it needed from the Japanese government to buy a stake in a lithium project in Northern Argentina. The article states that “people with knowledge of the matter” (read in to that what you will), values Toyota Tsusho’s investment somewhere between $100 million and $200 million.

Toyota Tsusho will pay for a feasibility study on this lithium project, which is being operated by Orocobre, an Australian firm, and will take a 25% stake in the project. “We think we should start preparing to supply the market,” Naoto Yamagishi, general manager of the metal-and-mineral resources department at Toyota Tsusho, said. Mr Yamagishi went to mention that the project area is located near an area of Chile, which is affectionately known as “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.” As opposed to Bolivia, which one might term the Iran of lithium.  Toyota’s first lithium ion battery vehicle will be the plug-in version of its Prius, which is planned for releases next year.

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