Toyota is beefing up its alternative fuel programs as it tries to maintain its lead in the increasingly competitive green car segment.
The company recently announced plans to build a pure electric vehicle for 2010. The short-range commuter car will be mass produced and sold only in Japan, where it will compete with offerings from Nissan, Mitsubishi, and others.
In the United States, Toyota is more concerned with General Motors and its 2010 Chevrolet Volt. It has pushed forward fleet testing of the Prius plug-in hybrid to 2009, and is testing lithium-ion batteries similar to those found in the Volt for a later release. As it stands, the plug-in Prius will retain the nickel-metal hydride batteries of the current generation, said Toyota spokeswoman Jana Hartline. Toyota estimates the car will be able to drive about 10 miles on batteries alone by 2009, something it hopes to improve before releasing it to consumers.