Akio Toyoda and Norbert ReithoferEnlarge Photo
Today, the two automakers finalized the deal by signing binding agreements.
They also revealed further details about the long-term collaboration, which in addition to the development of a hydrogen fuel cell system, new sports car platform, advanced battery technology, and engine sharing, will also include research and development of lightweight technologies.
Of most interest to performance car fans is news of a new sports car platform being developed by both BMW and Toyota. The new platform will be for a mid-size sports car that leverages the best technology and knowledge of each automaker.
The first stage of the project will be a feasibility study that’s scheduled to last until the end of 2013. It’s likely two sports cars are envisaged; one for each brand, just like the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-/Toyota GT 86 twins. Possibilities include new generations of the Toyota Supra and BMW Z4.
For the fuel cell project, BMW and Toyota are to share their technologies and jointly develop a practical fuel cell system for production cars, including not only a fuel cell stack but also a hydrogen tank, electric motor and battery.
The two automakers reiterated their firm belief in fuel cells being a viable solution for achieving zero emissions, and are aiming to have their system completed by 2020. This will also include investigation into hydrogen-fueling infrastructure development as well as creating codes and industry standards for the technology itself.
Another important area of research will be advanced battery technology, predominantly lithium-air batteries. The two automakers will focus on the development of lithium-air batteries with energy density greatly exceeding--up to five times--that of current lithium-ion batteries. If successful, we could see electric cars with ranges of 500 miles or more on a single charge.
Finally, the two will also collaborate on developing lightweight technology. Here the focus will be on reinforced composites, such as carbon fiber, for use mainly in constructing vehicle bodies. Both automakers are already experts in the production of carbon fiber, with BMW using it for its new i range of vehicles and Toyota for its Lexus LFA supercar.