DETROIT — Toyota plans to spend $35 million on partnerships with universities to study ways to make better batteries for electric vehicles and test possible solutions using artificial intelligence.

The Japanese automaker said the universities will also explore whether other materials, such as magnesium, could be used to make improved batteries, said Brian Storey, program manager for the Toyota Research Institute, which is based in Los Altos, Calif., but has offices in Ann Arbor and Cambridge, Mass.

Today’s hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles are powered by lithium-ion batteries — a technology that Storey said was invented nearly 40 years ago.

“And we are just now beginning to perfect them,” Storey said.

The problem facing the auto industry is that existing batteries continue to be costly and have range limitations that have held back industry sales compared with cheaper, but less fuel-efficient gasoline engines.

Storey said Toyota and its university partners also want to explore new ways of designing batteries.

“There is an infinite number of knobs that you can tune when you are doing development work,” Storey said. “The hope is that the use of artificial intelligence will help us sort through the infinite number of things you can do.”

Toyota’s initial partners include Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, State University of New York at Buffalo, University of Connecticut, and the U.K.-based materials science company Ilika. The institute is also in ongoing discussions with additional research partners.

Toyota said the research programs will follow parallel paths, as researchers work to identify new materials for use in future energy systems as well as develop tools and processes that can accelerate the design and development of new materials more broadly.

The University of Michigan will get a $2.4 million investment from the Toyota Research Institute that will be used to develop computer simulation tools to predict automotive battery performance.

The project will be overseen by the Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery and Engineering. Researchers will combine mathematical models of the atomic nature and physics of materials with artificial intelligence.

“We look forward to collaborating with (Toyota Research Institute) to advance computational materials science using machine learning principles,” Krishna Garikipati, professor of mechanical engineering and mathematics, said in a statement.

The project is part of a four-year, $35 million investment with research entities, universities and companies on research that uses artificial intelligence to help accelerate the design and discovery of advanced materials, TRI has announced.

The Toyota Research Institute was established in 2015 to conduct research into auto safety for autonomous cars, increase access to mobility for those who otherwise cannot drive and help translate outdoor mobility technology into products for indoor mobility.