Efforts to slash the cost of electric vehicles have been hampered by a lack of standardised batteries, potentially limiting early adoption by consumers, the head of Johnson Controls has said.

Steve Roell, chief executive of the supplier of automotive batteries and interiors and building efficiency products, told a US conference scale was not yet there to drive costs down – despite aggressive plans by every major automaker to roll out electric cars and hybrids in the next two to three years.

Speaking at the Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit, Roell said his most optimistic view was that electric vehicles and hybrids would make up 12 to 15% of the auto market by 2020.

“Because right now there are so many different suppliers forming their own technologies and their own packaging standards, I think scale is hard to come by,” Roell said, according to the news agency’s report.

Roell said the cost of hybrid or electric vehicles must come down, or fuel prices would have to surge to heights seen two years ago, for the vehicles to become more popular.

Johnson Controls has received incentives from the Obama administration aimed at helping spur development of advanced electric car batteries.

The US energy department awarded grants in August totaling almost US$1bn to companies including LG Chem, Johnson Controls and A123 Systems.

“The industry is a very immature market, it lacks scale and it lacks standards,” Roell said. “What we’re going to see over time is that we’ll see chemistry and cell format and even battery management systems to begin to form standards, but it’s going to take some time.”