Toyota Motor Corp. says there is a variety of future technologies it plans to introduce in the coming years to contribute “to the realization of a low-carbon society.”

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe, speaking at a Toyota Environmental Forum in Tokyo today, says the auto maker this month is establishing a battery-research department with a goal toward developing a battery that is superior to current lithium-ion technology.

Watanabe last January in Detroit announced a plug-in hybrid would come in 2010.

Today, he says the vehicle will be for fleet customers in the developed markets of the U.S., Japan, and Europe. However, Toyota plans to “accelerate development of small electric vehicles for mass production,” as well.

Watanabe says Toyota’s joint venture with Matsushita Group, Panasonic EV Energy Co. Ltd., will begin production of Li-ion batteries in 2009, with full-scale production in 2010.

Other fuel-sipping technologies coming soon from the No.1 Japanese auto maker include a newly announced “highly efficient compact 6-speed manual transmission” to be introduced this fall; flex-fuel versions of the Tundra fullsize pickup truck and Sequoia large SUV, due this year in North America; and new 1.3L and 2.5L gasoline engines, introduced this year. The former will be equipped with Toyota’s stop-and-start system.

Toyota says the fuel-efficiency of its models in Japan rose 28% between 1997 and 2007, and by the end of 2010 it will have completed the transition to newer, more-efficient engines and transmissions.

The auto maker reiterates plans to bring the tiny iQ, first unveiled at March’s Geneva auto show, to market this year, adding it is working to reduce the size and weight of its models.

Other research initiatives include development of cellulosic ethanol that doesn’t compete with food supplies. The auto maker says the focus of its research is technology that doesn’t involve yeast.

Also, Toyota and Nippon Oil Corp. jointly are researching high-concentration bio-hydrofined diesel (BHD) as an alterative to petroleum-based diesel. The companies already have made BHD fuel that performs on par with petroleum-based diesel.

Research into biomass-to-liquid, derived from synthesizing gas made from biomass, also is being undertaken by Toyota.

On the topic of hybrids, Watanabe says Toyota is working to increase the number of models it offers. By its own calculations, the 1.5 million hybrids the auto maker has sold to date worldwide have reduced gasoline consumption by 713.3 million gallons and kept 7 million tons (6.4 million t) of carbon dioxide from being emitted.

In the area of manufacturing, Toyota says it will work toward new CO2 emissions targets for 2010, having already achieved its original 2010 reduction targets.