The deal, which will run for 10 years, means Toyota will supply Nissan with its hybrid technology for vehicles sold in the US in 2006, with sales expected to reach 100,000 by 2011.
But both companies will work towards developing long-term solutions and components for use in hybrid vehicle technology, bringing together their previously independent operations.
Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are driven by a small petrol engine with a separate battery fitted to provide an additional power boost or to drive at low speed. The vehicles also have low carbon dioxide emissions.
While the agreement marks a major step towards the future development of mass production hybrid cars, industry experts say the reasons for the deal are more economic than the desire to push forward a shared vision of a “green” future.
One industry source says the main driver was the huge development costs incurred by Toyota. Toyota launched the Prius in 1997 and sells 120,000 hybrid vehicles a year, while Nissan had been focusing on ultra-low emissions vehicles (U-LEV), introduced in the Bluebird Sylphy and Sentra CA models, making them the cleanest petrol-fuelled vehicles in the world.
As for hybrids, Nissan sold a limited number of Tinos with petrol-electric technology and created a department to deal exclusively with the improvement of fuel efficiency in February, 2001.
Officially, the two companies expect their collaboration to contribute to further decreasing the cost of hybrid vehicle components.