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Toyota President Akio Toyoda, left, and Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga at a news conference in Tokyo on Dec. 13.

Toyota-Panasonic hookup could jolt Japan's electric-car sector

Titans of industry may join forces on batteries, giving nation a chance to catch up

| Japan

NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor's planned partnership with Panasonic on electric-car batteries opens the door to a team effort by Japan's automotive heavyweights to refine and standardize that technology, gaining a necessary edge as electric vehicles begin to roll out worldwide.

The automaker announced Wednesday that the duo will begin exploring a tie-up on automotive batteries -- a critical piece of the effort to make electric vehicles more affordable and usable. Leaps in battery technology could help Japanese automakers catch up to foreign peers such as Volkswagen and Chinese manufacturers, which already have medium- to long-term electric-car strategies in place and are investing heavily in battery production.

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