VW and Toshiba Will Cooperate on Electric Drive, Battery Development

By KBB.com Editors on February 13, 2009 8:59 AM

Volkswagen AG and Toshiba have signed a letter of intent that outlines plans to work together on a new generation of electric drive units, power electronics and high-capacity battery systems to be used in VW's new small family of vehicles.

The statement by Volkswagen's Chairman of the Board Martin Winterkorn noted that the firm is currently moving ahead on the development of a number of future drive technologies and sees this new linkup with the Japanese battery maker as pivotal to VW's long-term success in the emerging electric vehicle arena. "I am convinced that this will be a major step forward towards the development of series production electric vehicles for our customers." Winterkorn also reiterated Volkswagen's objective to be "the first manufacturer to provide an emissions-free, affordable and safe large-scale production electric vehicle." He admitted that a good deal of R&D work will be required to meet that goal, but sees the expertise provided by Toshiba, specifically in the realm of advanced Lithium-ion battery technology, as helping expedite that process in a cost-effective manner.

Citing VW's leadership role in the automotive industry, Atsutoshi Nishida, president and CEO of the Toshiba Corporation, also feels the matchup will serve to "drive technologies of tomorrow." Toshiba, which developed and currently markets its line of super charge ion batteries (SCiB) had previously invested $194 million in new facilities that would allow it to increase output of SCiB cells to three million per month in 2010. Toshiba's proprietary SCiB design technology yields cells offer numerous benefits that are particularly well suited to future automotive applications, including their high power density, excellent resistance to overheating, a long service life, and the ability to be recharged to 90 percent of their total capacity in five minutes.

This marks VW's second major link with a Japanese battery maker. In May of 2008, it signed an agreement with Sanyo to supply Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for future Audi and VW hybrid vehicles and continues to work with the firm on developing advanced Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries. Last fall, Sanyo bought out Toshiba's Ni-MH battery interests, a move that cemented its positions as the world's largest supplier of Ni-MH technology. Interestingly enough, a month after that deal was announced, Sanyo itself was purchased by another Japanese electronics powerhouse, the Panasonic Corporation.