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scibToshiba and Volkswagen on Thursday unveiled a partnership to develop next-generation battery systems for electric cars.

For the Japanese conglomerate, the VW deal is just its latest green tech move.  Though known in the United States mainly for its laptop computers, Toshiba is the General Electric (GE) of Japan – it makes everything from consumer electronics to medical devices to nuclear power plant components.

In January, Toshiba announced that it was getting into the solar power plant business to build photovoltaic farms for utilities. The company also said it would install carbon-capture technology at a coal-fired power plant in Japan as part of a pilot project.

But its development of advanced battery technology could have the biggest impact.  Toshiba’s Super Charge ion Battery, or SCiB, can charge to 90% capacity in ten minutes, depending on its use, according to the company. Laptop versions of the SCiB can be discharged 6,000 times versus 500 times for a conventional battery. Larger versions of the battery are used to power electric bicycles and industrial equipment like forklifts. The real breakthrough will come if the SCiB can be adapted for electric cars.

“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.”

He declined to name the car company but General Motors (GM), Ford (F) and Chrysler have all accelerated electric car programs as have Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC). Those talks probably will get a boost from the stimulus bill passed this week that gives a $7,500 tax credit to consumers who purchase plug-in electric hybrid vehicles.

The company is building a SCiB factory in Japan and is also exploring the potential of the SCiB to store electricity generated by solar power plants and wind farms.

“Toshiba aims to make SCiB a mainstay of its industrial systems and automotive products businesses worldwide,” the company said in a statement.

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