By Drew Johnson
Tuesday, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:50 pm
 
Toyota may not be at the forefront of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle technology, but the Japanese automaker announced on Tuesday that it has developed a new technology that will greatly improve the storage capacity of its next-generation lithium-ion batteries.

Although Toyota is keeping mum on the technical details, the improvement stems from the production of single crystals of lithium cobalt oxide. Toyota jointly developed the new lithium-ion technology with Japan's Tohoku University, according to Japan's Nikkei newspaper.

Toyota failed to reveal how much more powerful the new lithium-ion batteries will be compared to today's crop of lithium-ion batteries, but Japan's Nikkei business daily speculates the breakthrough could net a ten-fold improvement in battery performance - potentially setting the stage for electric vehicles with a range of 1,000 miles. Additionally, the new technology is said to weigh less and take up less space than lithium-ion batteries currently under development.

It remains to be seen when the new technology will be available in a production car, but Toyota has often stated it would wait on electric and mass-produced plug-in hybrids until battery technology became more viable. If the new technology pans out, Toyota could have it to market by the middle of next-decade.