TOKYO - Japan's Hitachi Ltd said it has developed lithium-ion batteries for plug-in hybrid vehicles and plans to start commercial production by 2013, aiming to take a slice of a market with strong growth potential.

Plug-in hybrids have large batteries which can be recharged at home with an extension cord, unlike conventional gasoline-electric hybrid cars, which have batteries that are recharged only when the driver hits the brake.

Hitachi will be competing with larger rivals such as Sanyo Electric Co Ltd, the world's largest rechargeable battery maker, which plans to start producing lithium-ion batteries for plug-in hybrid cars in 2011.

Toyota Motor Corp, whose Prius hybrid vehicles became Japan's best-selling car in 2009, plans to begin selling plug-in hybrid cars to the public in two years.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Kentaro Hamada)