As odd as it sounds, the world’s largest oil refiner Exxon Mobil is helping to develop new battery technology for a range of new petrol-electric hybrids and all-electric vehicles. Using a component it developed for mobile phone batteries, Exxon Mobil is now working on improving batteries for use in cars and believes that hybrid vehicles will one day command a large share of the market.

The component is a plastic ‘separator’ film used in lithium-ion batteries. The film is capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 374 degrees and helps prevent the batteries from overheating and exploding – one of the limiting factors of lithium-ion technology.

One of the first cars equipped with the Exxon Mobil-improved batteries is the new Electrovaya Maya-300 (pictured) electric vehicle. The car has a range of about 120 miles and is set to go on sale by the middle of the year.

An inside source has revealed to the Wall Street Journal that Exxon Mobil has plans to build a new $300 million plant in South Korea to manufacture the film as well as hire 14 scientists Japan, New Jersey and Texas to improve the technology further. Eventually, it wants to supply the component to carmakers like Toyota, Ford and GM and is estimating that the market for the film could be more than $1 billion within the next ten years.