"SYDNEY/TOKYO - A sister company to Toyota Motor Corp secured a lithium supply deal in Argentina on Wednesday that could help the world's largest automaker keep its lead in gasoline-electric hybrid cars.
The deal sent shares in the lithium project's owner and operator, Australian-listed Orocobre Ltd, soaring almost 50 percent to an all-time high.
Lithium, a highly reactive and versatile metal, is expected to be in increasing demand as carmakers choose costly but more efficient lithium-ion batteries to power hybrid and electric vehicles.
'When it comes to mass production of hybrids, the main hurdle has been a shortage of batteries,' said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Kazaka Securities. 'Toyota is taking a step on its own to secure the materials it needs to ensure stable production.'"
Eriko Amaha and Nathan Layne report for Reuters January 22, 2010.