Toshiba Leaps From Laptops to Electric Cars

Toshiba and Mitsubishi Motors have teamed up to work on battery systems for electric cars, the laptop and electronics giant announced on Friday. Toshiba is hoping to see its lithium-ion battery technology deployed in upcoming plug-in cars from Mitsubishi, which plans to bring its electric i-MiEV model to the U.S. market in 2011.

Back in 2008, Toshiba bagged the first supply agreement for its rapid-charge lithium-ion battery, the SCiB (Super Charge ion Battery), in a deal with Schwinn for electric bicycles. According to today’s release, the company has now lined up customers for the SCiB in applications that include an electric motorcycle and a microgrid system. Earlier this year, Toshiba said the SCiB will be used in Honda’s EV-neo electric motorcycle, due out in December 2010, and will enable the bike to recharge to 80 percent capacity in 20 minutes.

Toshiba plans to start producing the SCiB for industrial applications, including electric vehicles and and power storage, at a new facility in Japan’s Niigata prefecture in 2011. In the meantime, Toshiba says it will work to set up a sales and marketing structure for the tech.

Toshiba is hardly a shoe-in for a contract to supply Mitsubishi with the battery systems for upcoming electric models. Japan-based battery maker GS Yuasa formed a joint venture with Mitsubishi and Mitsubishi Motors back in 2007 (called Lithium Energy Japan), with the goal of mass producing lithium-ion batteries for use in applications, including electric and hybrid vehicles.

But as Christina Lampe-Onnerud, CEO of battery maker Boston-Power, has told us, there’s room for more than one battery supplier per automaker in the nascent electric vehicle market. There’s a common perception that “all automotive companies have picked their batteries. Not in our experience,” she said in an interview earlier this year. “Everybody will need multiple sources.”

Images courtesy of Toshiba and Mitsubishi

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