Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> has set up a division to accelerate developing next-generation batteries, a company executive told reporters at the North American Auto Show on Tuesday.

The world's biggest carmaker and a leader of gasoline-electric vehicles has adopted nickel-metal-hydride batteries for the current Prius hybrid and decided to use more energy-efficient lithium-ion batteries for the plug-in hybrid car which will be launched in 2012.

We believe a key to the electrical mobile technology lies in innovation of battery technology, said Koei Saga, Toyota's managing officer who is in charge of developing batteries. Lithium-ion batteries will already be a step forward, but we need batteries that offer far superior performance, he added.

The new division was established in January and about 50 engineers are studying production processes for the next-generation batteries. Saga did not elaborate on what the new batteries will be like or when they will come out.

Saga also said Toyota has eyed the possibility of procuring some batteries from outside the company although the carmaker will mainly keep on using its own batteries. Toyota has developed its batteries together with Japan's consumer electronics maker Panasonic <6752.T>.