Toyota plans to bring forward its investment in its Thai hybrid vehicle battery plant by a year citing potential shortages of batteries in Japan, according to local reports.

The Japanese automaker was awarded tax incentives for its THB19bn (US$575m) investment in hybrid vehicle production and related parts including doors assemblies, bumpers and axles, in Chachoengsao – east of Bangkok.

Toyota had originally planned to produce 7,000 battery packs per year for these vehicles from mid-2020, but has decided to bring these plans forward by one year to mid-2019 to help alleviate potential supply bottlenecks. It is expected to initially produce nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries which are seen as more suitable for tropical climates.

Toyota currently produces two plug-in hybrids in Thailand, the C-HR sport utility vehicle and the Camry sedan, both fitted with NiMH batteries imported from Japan.

Global demand for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles is set to rise sharply over the next several years and battery supply is getting tight is key production locations such as China and Japan.

Toyota produces NiMH batteries at three plants in Japan, in Omori, Sakaijuku and Miyagi prefectures, through its Primearth EV Energy joint venture with Panasonic in which it has an 80.5% stake. These plants have a combined production capacity of 1.4m battery packs per year, which are fitted to Toyota's hybrid vehicles globally.

Toyota's wholly-owned Thai battery plant will eventually be scaled up to meet global productivity standards, with lithium-ion batteries expected to be added to the line-up later on.