Edging out Chinese buyers, Toyota Tsusho Corp., which is 21.8% owned by Toyota Motor, secured low-cost loans from the Japanese government to take a stake in a lithium project that could begin commercial production by 2012.
The move signals how the search for high-quality lithium used in hybrid and electric-car batteries is prompting jockeying for the earth's commodities.
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A supplier to Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid, has tied up a potential source of lithium for batteries.
.With demand projected to grow rapidly for car batteries over the next decade, "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 in an interview.
The investment would give Toyota—the largest seller of hybrid vehicles—as well as Japanese battery makers a secure supply of lithium rather than leave them at the mercy of a few producers if, as some fear, supplies tighten in coming years.
Japanese electronics makers already control a majority of the lithium-ion battery market for electronic devices such as laptop computers. In the new deal, a state-owned Japanese entity, the Japan Oils, Gas and Metals National Corp., is giving Toyota Tsusho inexpensive financing to secure relatively low-cost lithium for Toyota and other companies that are competing with South Korean and Chinese rivals in the car-battery market.
The investment is valued at $100 million to $120 million, said people with knowledge of the matter. Toyota Tsusho will pay for the completion of a feasibility study this year on a lithium project operated in northern Argentina by Australian-listed Orocobre Ltd. and will take a 25% stake in the project thereafter.
The entire world reserve of lithium after processing is about 5 million tonnes of lithium. That is hardly enough if most of cars in the world is run by lithium batteries. In my opinion. lithium battery hybrids are only a temp. technology.
Securing lithium supplies may be easier said than done. A large part of the world's supply (roughly half) comes from Bolivia, a country controlled by a left-wing government, allied to some extent with Cuba's Castro and Venezuela's Chavez, that is rather hostile to large corporations.
if toyota can get this done, i would look into getting a plug-in hybrid with lithum batteries.
venza with EV please.
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