Toyota Tsusho Corp, a key supplier of batteries for Toyota's hybrid cars, made a partnership deal with Orocobre Ltd, a mining company based in Australia. This deal should secure the fluent supply of lithium to Toyota Motor, who owns 22 percent of Tsusho.
Toyota Tsusho and Orocobre announced the partnership on Wednesday The intent is to establish a lithium mine in northwestern Argentina. Jame Calaway, CEO of Orocobre Ltd, estimates the project costs up to 100 million US dollars.
Lithium, the lightest and very reactive metal, is a key component of lithium-ion batteries which will be more often required due to usage in hybrid and electric cars. Toyota considers the hybrid technology as important to reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions and plans to double the production of hybrid cars in 2011 and introduce another 10 hybrid cars in coming years.
The lithium-ion batteries should replace the current nickel-metal batteries used in Toyota Prius or Honda Insight. The nickel-metal batteries are now less expensive but are limited in the usage due to their capacity. The new type of batteries will allow the hybrid and electric cars to run only on electricity far longer than previously.
Business consulting company A.T. Kearney estimates that the actual sales of lithium-ion batteries will rise from 34 million US dollars in 2009 to 21 billion US dollars by 2015 and 62 billion US dollars by 2020.