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Toyota, BMW sign agreement for fuel-cells, sports car

| BMW, Emerging Technologies, Toyota | January 25, 2013

Toyota, BMW sign agreement for fuel-cells, sports car

Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW are tightening technical ties with plans to jointly develop a sports car platform, lithium-air batteries and new lightweight materials.

The automakers also aim to jointly develop a fuel cell system for vehicles by 2020. The companies unveiled their agreement today, fleshing out a blueprint for cooperation first announced in 2011.

The latest step focuses on four areas:

  • Study of a shared sports vehicle platform by the year’s end
  • Joint development of a hydrogen fuel cell system by 2020
  • Cooperation in developing lightweight technologies
  • Research into next-generation lithium-based batteries

The companies will embark on a feasibility study to define a joint platform concept for a mid-sized sports vehicle. They aim to complete the study by the end of 2013.

Toyota and BMW will also team in developing a new generation of batteries with higher energy density than the lithium ion batteries currently being used in hybrid and electric cars. They cited lithium-air batteries as the new chemistry to be explored.

More extensive use of lightweight materials, including reinforced composites, is another joint goal of the accord. BMW and Toyota aim to use these lightweight technologies, which will likely include carbon fiber materials, in their joint sports platform as well as their own cars.

The hydrogen fuel cell collaboration will focus on developing the fuel cell stack, hydrogen tank, motor and battery. They will also jointly study how to prep the infrastructure to better support the rollout of hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

“In order for FCVs (fuel cell vehicles) to become more widely used, it needs to be cheaper. That would require a great deal of time and cost for development,” said Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, who led development of the Prius hybrid in late 1990s. “By bringing together the wisdom of two companies, we can aim to make FCVs more popular much quicker,” he told a news conference with BMW at Nagoya, central Japan.

Toyota said it wants to introduce around 2020 a new fuel cell vehicle using the jointly developed technology, while BMW said a launch date has not been decided. Toyota aims to start selling a fuel cell sedan by around 2015.

The two companies reiterated that they have no plans for a capital tie-up.

Toyota and BMW first announced their intention to cooperate in Dec. 2011. Last June, they signed a memorandum of understanding that broadly outlined four areas of collaboration. “We are making steadfast progress,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said in a release today. “Now, we are entering the phase that promises the fruit.”

(Source: AutoNews.com)