Last week, Toshiba and Volkswagen unveiled a partnership for developing next-gen electric car batteries.
Mostly known for laptop computers here in the States, Toshiba is the General Electric of Japan. They build everything from consumer electronics to nuclear power plant components.
Fine by me, I just don’t want my EV to catch on fire! Or my laptop for that matter. But as of late, Toshiba is foraying in to greener pastures. And so is VW with it’s new BlueMotion Technologies line.
GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT
Of course, Toshiba breaking away from its usual DVD-fare might not be that shocking.
The VDub partnership comes on the heels of Toshiba entering the solar power plant market. Toshiba isn’t producing the solar panels themselves, at least for the time being. They will be using their competitor’s solar panels along with components they produce for large-scale power plants.
Alongside the nuclear power plants, Toshiba also provides components for hydroelectric plants and for power transmission systems. They are even pursuing carbon-capture technology.
So it is of no surprise that Toshiba has been eying the hybrid and electric car market. They have already been developing a super-charged ion battery (SCiB) for both laptop computers and electric bikes. Once again, I kinda hope these don’t catch on fire!
“One of our big target markets is the automobile market,” Craig Hershberg, Toshiba’s director of environmental affairs, told Green Wombat. “We’re currently talking to one of the big automakers in the U.S.” But they wouldn’t say whom.
In fact, they recently announced plans to spend $331 million on building a SCiB factory.
“Toshiba aims to make SCiB a mainstay of its industrial systems and automotive products businesses worldwide,” the company said in a statement. Enter Volkswagen!
ONE FOR THE ROAD
I have a feeling the VW Up! will be the first model to see this pairing.
Because of its iconic styling, the concept car is being touted as the next new “Beetle,” not to be confused with the actual New Beetle. I dug up this little VW feature on it – check it out:
But they have yet to really tap the electric vehicle market. At the very least, they are EV-curious. That is apparent by kick off their hybrid electric Touareg. But it seems the VW Up! Concept would benefit most from the Toshiba-VW pairing.
Currently, there are two models of the Up! Concept: the Up!, a small three-door, and the Space Up!, a mini-van. One key feature that has gotten a lot of attention is its Apple iPhone like interface, something VW hopes to add to all its models.
For those real VW enthusiasts, the engine isn’t in the front, baby.
IT KEEPS GOING…AND GOING
So what does the SCiB mean for EVs?
Well, the souped-up battery can charge to 90-percent capacity in ten minutes. According to Toshiba, that is depending on its use. Notably, laptop versions of the battery can be discharged 6,000 times versus the 500 times for a conventional battery. It can also operate down to -30 celcius (-22F). That is pretty good for an Electric Vehicle type application. But, DIY Electric Car made this point about the battery:
Say for instance, we fitted a new Tesla Roadster with SCiB batteries. Could we actually perform a 5 minute charge? The Roadster’s efficiency is reported as 133 Wh/km (4.7 mi/kWh). This means that fully refueling from a 300 mile drive would require around 63kWh of electricity. Multiply by .9 to get a 90% recharge (as Toshiba states is the 5 minute charge) and you have 56.7kWh. Multiply that by 12 to get the amount of kW required for a 5 minute charge. That’s 680kW. Regardless of what you may know about electricity, that’s a whole lot of it.
To actually feed the car 680kW, we need to select a usable voltage. The best that’s commercially available right now would be 480v or actually 220v if it’s household current. For the sake of argument let’s choose 480v. The size of the wire to transfer the energy is dependent on how many amps are going to flow through it. Amps are just watts divided by volts, so when we apply this we get 1416 amps. Technicalities aside, the wire would have to be something like 0/8AWG or about 2 inches in diameter to feed the current to the vehicle. Is this any more or less safe than filling a car with gas yourself?
The Chairman of the Board of Management at Volkswagen AG, Prof. Dr Martin Winterkorn, says “this will be a major step forward towards the development of series production electric vehicles for our customers.”
He went on to say that Volkswagen’s objective is “to be the first manufacturer to provide an emissions-free, affordable and safe large-scale production electric vehicle.” Though some specialists believe a mass-produced EV is still 10 plus years away.
Though some kind of model should nonetheless be available by 2012, when increasingly strict carbon emissions limits set by the European Union are due to take effect.