BMW and Toyota have solidified their working partnership by signing binding agreements to cooperate in four key areas of future research. The most exciting portions of the agreement concern plans to build a shared sports car, possibly using advanced lightweight materials.
BMW and Toyota said they would build a new sports car on a shared platform last June, but now we have more details on the car. It will be a midsize model and is supposed to be ready by the end of this year. And after that, the pair will "further collaborate in the field of sports vehicle development." This plan for a sports car ties in to another aspect of BMW and Toyota's new agreement: lightweight materials. The automakers will work together on researching reinforced composites (like carbon fiber) for the shared sports car. That could help keep the car's weight lower and potentially improve its importance.
Toyota already partnered with Subaru to build a dedicated small sports car, the GT86 / BRZ / Scion FR-S. But it sounds like the vehicle planned from BMW and Toyota will be somewhat larger than the nimble 2+2 Subaru/Toyota coupe. BMW already is extensively researching carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP) for its electric and plug-in hybrid cars, the i3 and i8, which could be used to make sporty cars lighter.
In addition to the sports car and lightweight tech, BMW and Toyota reiterated plans to cooperate on two other areas of research. First, the companies will continue to experiment with fuel-cell technology. The agreement calls for the pair to develop a hydrogen tank, fuel stack, and motor and battery that could be put into commercial production by 2020. In addition, the companies will learn how to expand the availability of hydrogen filling stations and create rules and regulations for fuel-cell cars.
Finally, BMW and Toyota will investigate lithium-air batteries, which are supposed to be store more energy in less space than current lithium-ion batteries used in most hybrid and electric cars. That could allow for longer all-electric driving ranges, without making battery packs unnecessarily larger or heavier.
Sources: BMW, Toyota