December 13, 2007 Toshiba have stunned the world with their announcement of what's pretty much the holy grail in Lithium battery technology – the Super Charge ion Battery, which recharges up to 90% of its energy in just five minutes, and has a lifespan of over 10 years. Slow charging has been the key hurdle to public acceptance of battery-electric vehicles as viable distance travelers, so this breakthrough has all sorts of implications for the automotive industry as well as being a very welcome upgrade to a whole host of other portable devices.
The first of Toshiba's groundbreaking SCiB packs will ship in March 2008 to an industrial systems market that Toshiba forecasts being worth 100 billion Yen by 2015. There's no mention of when the technology is likely to hit the consumer market, but with such rapid charging ability, ultra-long life and high resistance to rupture and combustion, the SCiB looks like the first of a new generation of battery cells that will allow electric vehicle drivers to top up their cells in nearly the same amount of time a petrol vehicle takes to fill.
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To this end, Toshiba is working on a high-performance version of the SCiB targeted at the automotive industry.
The development of high-powered, long-lasting, rapid-charge battery cells offers the automotive industry a simple and extremely efficient alternative to Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, whose competitive advantage thus far lies in their ability to refuel in a similar manner to petrol-powered cars. Batteries, it can be argued, are much more energy-efficient, delivering as much as three times more power from the electricity grid to the wheels as fuel cell vehicles are able to.