Right now, it seems we're in the calm before the hybrid storm due to be unleashed shortly by automakers the world over. GM may have taken nearly a decade longer than Toyota to get into the game, but now it's ready to talk the talk with its two-mode hybrid system. The bigger development is the use of plug-ins with lithium-ion power, which might hit the market as early as 2009. Toyota was planning on using lithium batteries in the next-gen Prius as soon as late 2008, but due to safety concerns the more powerful and efficient battery tech won't arrive in a Toyota until 2011. As we reported earlier, the next generation Prius will now bow in early 2009, but with a nickel-hydride battery pack.

Toyota's lithium battery of choice uses cobalt oxide, much like the problematic batteries that were catching fire in Sony laptops. GM's iron phosphate-based battery is said to be more chemically stable. Toyota is rumored to have also delayed plans for a hybrid Tundra, and the company's plan to build 600,000 hybrids per year by 2010 now appears to be in doubt. Its green status with the public and media has played a large role in the company's sales surge, but the above delays may give the rest of the world's automakers some room to react.

[Source: The Wall Street Journal via Winding Road]

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