Johnson Controls (JCI) is working with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to research ever-more efficient battery solutions.

The battery and interiors specialist supplier is partnering with the powerful American government agency in a high-tech centre, which is benefiting from a considerable cash injection to further its work.

"We are fortunate to be an industry partner in the US$120m Department of Energy research," JCI power solutions [batteries] president, Alex Molinaroli, said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

"This is to develop batteries that are five times more powerful and five times less costly."

Molinaroli acknowledged, while alternative energy research was advancing, hybrid and electric vehicles continued to be "challenged by economics" in the current choppy global economic waters.

"Hybrid and EV sales will remain low - around 5% of total vehicles for several years," he said. "However, working with our customers, Johnson Controls is excited about the emerging technology. We will continue to bring advanced battery technologies to the market."

He also predicted self-sufficient start-stop vehicles "are taking hold."

JCI's SVP complete seat manager, Jeff Williams, added: "We continually ask ourselves what comes next?

"Premium design, weight reduction, sustainability and personalisation, are factors impacting interiors. Today, design is not just about stlying - personalisation is becoming a key differentiator."

JCI said it expects to post higher sales and earnings this year with slightly higher auto production in North America and China and lower output in Europe.