• The Associated Press


Toyota said Wednesday it will start leasing plug-in hybrid cars that are even more efficient than its popular Prius by the end of the year in the United States, Japan and Europe.

Toyota Motor Corp. will start leasing 200 plug-ins in Japan, 150 in the U.S. and 150 in Europe, mostly for rental, including through special government-backed programs, it said in a release.

For the first time, Toyota will start using lithium-ion batteries in the plug-ins. The batteries are more commonly seen in laptops and other portable gadgets.

Toyota hybrids now use nickel-metal hydride batteries. Using a lithium-ion battery will produce more energy, allowing the car to spend more time running as an electric vehicle, but there have been some technological hurdles.

A plug-in recharges from a regular household socket. When the battery runs low, it will start running as a regular hybrid so drivers don’t have to worry about running out of juice on the road.

Automakers around the world are working on plug-in models. Recharging stations are expected to proliferate in the cities of the future, much like gasoline stands, for recharging.

The booming sales of the revamped Prius, which went on sale last month, have been a rare bright spot for Toyota.

Toyota dealers have received 110,000 orders for the Prius in Japan.

GM sales down 36%

Kyodo News

Sales of General Motors Corp. vehicles in Japan plunged 36 percent in May from the previous year to about 120 units, according to sources.

GM, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with a U.S. federal court Monday, says it plans to maintain its marketing network in Japan as part of efforts to rehabilitate its operations under court-supervised proceedings.

Of the four brands of vehicles GM markets in Japan, sales of Chevrolet cars plummeted 52 percent in May, while those of Cadillac luxury vehicles dropped 13 percent.

Sales of Saab vehicles tumbled 33 percent and sales of Hummer sport utility vehicles fell 17 percent.

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