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BMW, Toyota outline new tech joint venture, new sports car

Fri, 25 Jan 2013 Back in June, Toyota and BMW announced a "memorandum of understanding" outlining plans for the two companies to join forces on future products and technology development. On Thursday, they signed a more formal and binding agreement that goes further into detail about the partnership, and it all sounds pretty exciting. The two announced they will work together in four main areas:
  1. Joint development of a fuel cell system
  2. "Set up a feasibility study to define a joint platform concept for a mid-size sports vehicle"
  3. Focus on lightweight technology – the agreement mentions reinforced composites that could be used in the aforementioned sports vehicle
  4. Better batteries – the companies will work to develop a lithium-air battery with a much greater energy density than today's cells.

The most intriguing item is the mention of a "mid-size sports vehicle." The vague term had us wondering what, exactly, is meant by "sports vehicle," but we're being assured this feasibility study is centered on a sports car. Is this the first step toward a Supra revival?

Despite our fervor for all things sports car, however, fuel cell research could prove to be the pact's most important point. Both companies have built advanced fuel research vehicles, with Toyota favoring fuel cells and BMW leaning toward hydrogen-powered, internal combustion. The press release specifically lists fuel cell stacks, hydrogen tanks, motors and batteries as areas of interest. If the two can eventually bring a fuel-cell vehicle to market at an affordable price point, it would be huge news, although there's always the problem of infrastructure to support such cars. BMW and Toyota's new deal can't solve everything though, right? Read the full press release below for more information.

BMW Group and Toyota Motor Corporation Deepen Collaboration by Signing Binding Agreements

Fuel Cell System, Sports Vehicle, Lightweight Technology and Lithium-air Battery Collaboration to Commence

Munich - BMW Group and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) are pursuing their successful strategic long-term cooperation in the field of sustainable mobility today by signing binding agreements aimed at long-term collaboration between the two companies for the joint development of a fuel cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a sports vehicle, and joint research and development of lightweight technologies. These agreements follow a memorandum of understanding signed in June 2012.

Furthermore, BMW Group and TMC also today signed a binding agreement to commence collaborative research on lithium-air batteries, a post-lithium-battery solution. This agreement marks the second phase of collaborative research into next-generation lithium-ion battery cells that commenced in March 2012.

The main points of the agreements are:

1. Fuel cell system

The companies are convinced that fuel cell technology is one of the solutions necessary to achieve zero emissions. BMW Group and TMC are to share their technologies and to jointly develop a fundamental fuel-cell vehicle system, including not only a fuel cell stack and system, but also a hydrogen tank, motor and battery, aiming for completion in 2020.
- The companies are to collaborate in jointly developing codes and standards for the hydrogen infrastructure which are necessary for the popularization of fuel cell vehicles.

2. Sports vehicle
The companies agreed to set-up a feasibility study to define a joint platform concept for a mid-size sports vehicle that is to be completed by the end of 2013. The two companies aim to combine each other's technology and knowledge at a high level to maximise customer satisfaction. Both companies are to share the vision to further collaborate in the field of sports vehicle development.

3. Lightweight technology
The companies are to jointly develop lightweight technologies for vehicle bodies using cutting-edge materials such as reinforced composites, with an eye to utilize these technologies in cooperation on the joint development of a sports-vehicle platform as well as other BMW and TMC vehicles.

4. Post-lithium-battery technology
The companies are to begin joint research with a goal to develop a lithium-air battery with energy density greatly exceeding that of current lithium-ion batteries.

Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG said: "TMC and the BMW Group share the same strategic vision of future sustainable mobility. In light of the technological changes ahead, the entire automotive industry faces tremendous challenges, which we also regard as an opportunity. This collaboration is an important building block in keeping both companies on a successful course in the future."

Akio Toyoda, President of TMC said: "It is just over a year since we signed our collaborative MoU, and with each day as our relationship strengthens, we feel acutely that we are making steadfast progress. Now, we are entering the phase that promises the fruit. While placing importance on what we learn from the joint development, we will work hard together in reaching our common goal of making ever-better cars."

BMW Group and TMC first agreed to form a medium-to-long-term collaborative relationship for developing next-generation environment-friendly vehicles and technologies in December 2011, at which time the two companies also signed a contract under which BMW Group is to supply highly efficient diesel engines to Toyota Motor Europe. BMW Group and TMC - as long-term strategic partners - have since continued their joint efforts to realize sustainable mobility for the future.

By Chris Tutor

See also: 2014 Toyota Tundra to debut at Chicago Auto Show, Russians create Toyota Land Cruiser ice sculpture with full interior, Toyota releases teaser for Kaley Cuoco Super Bowl ad.