TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. plans to buy lithium ion batteries from Sanyo Electric Co. as it seeks new sources of batteries beyond its longtime supplier for the Prius hybrid.
Toyota now gets nickel-metal hydride batteries for the Prius and other hybrids from Primearth EV Energy Co., a joint venture the automaker established with Panasonic Corp.
But when Toyota shifts to lithium ion in coming years for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, it will buy some of the power packs from Sanyo, a person familiar with the matter said. The comments confirm a report in Japan's Nikkei business newspaper.
The person would not say what Toyota vehicle would get the Sanyo batteries. But Nikkei said the carmaker intends to install them in the MPV-sized Prius, which could arrive in Japan as early as next year.
Spokesmen for Toyota and Sanyo declined to comment.
Primearth was founded in 1996, with Panasonic holding 60 percent and Toyota 40 percent. Its purpose was to make batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles.
But in 2005 the shares flipped, with Toyota taking 60 percent and Panasonic the rest. In April, Toyota boosted its stake to 80.5 percent, partly to allay antitrust concerns raised by the Chinese government after Panasonic's purchase of Sanyo last year.
Panasonic and Sanyo still are discussing how to integrate their battery businesses. Panasonic is seen as increasingly reliant on Sanyo, a leader in lithium ion battery technology, amid Panasonic's dwindling share in Primearth. Sanyo counts Volkswagen and Suzuki among its customers.
Primearth has focused mostly on older-generation nickel-metal hydride batteries. But it is also planning to branch into lithium ion packs, which are lighter and more powerful.