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VW, Toshiba to Develop Electric Car Technology

In a bid to become the first car manufacturer to mass produce emissions-free cars, Volkswagen has announced it is teaming up with Japanese electronics group, Toshiba.

VW factory in Kassel/ Baunatal

VW wants eco-friendly cars rolling out of its factories

Volkswagen, Europe's biggest carmaker, and Toshiba have unveiled an accord to jointly develop electric drive units and other elements that VW said will allow it to become the first manufacturer of an affordable electric vehicle.

In a statement on Thursday, Feb.12, the Wolfsburg-based company said it hoped to push the development of future drive technologies in many fields and that more research and development would be needed, particularly for smaller but more powerful lithium-ion batteries.

"To further support our strong position, Volkswagen is making lasting investments and offering cooperation to other companies," said Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn. "One of the important building blocks here is the cooperation with Toshiba."

The drive units and "accompanying power electronics" developed would be used in VW's planned New Small Family of vehicles that are still in the concept stage, the statement said.

VW said it aimed to be the first manufacturer to provide "an emissions-free, affordable and safe large-scale production electric vehicle."

While VW wants to be the first manufacturer to offer an affordable, safe mass-produced electric car, Winterkorn has warned that such a car would not be available right away.

"A considerable amount of research and development work still has to be carried out until we can produce the electric vehicle," Winterkorn was quoted as saying.

He added that research into lithium-ion battery technology was now being done with "further potential technological partners alongside Toshiba." But Winterkorn called the partnership with Toshiba "a major step forward toward the development of series production electric vehicles for our customers."

Drive technologies for tomorrow

Mini E car from BMW

BMW has been experimenting with electric technology on its Mini

Toshiba president Atsutoshi Nishida said that "the combined know-how of the two international technology groups Volkswagen and Toshiba will be an important step towards the drive technologies of tomorrow."

Zero-emission cars are a major goal for auto manufacturers, with all major brands working towards it. Germany, however, has lagged behind the trend for some time. Only recently have German carmakers presented projects, with both VW and Daimler planning offers for 2010 and BMW testing an electric system with its Mini brand.

Industry experts, however, say that the first mass-produced electric car is still some 10 to 20 years away.

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