Today BMW Group and Toyota Motor Corporation signed documents deepening previous partnership commitments in their mutual goals toward sustainable transportation technology.

Executives from the two automotive powerhouses met in Munich and mutually agreed to a binding long-term collaboration to jointly develop a fuel cell system, architecture and components for a sports vehicle, and jointly research and develop “lightweight technologies.”

The two companies are also intent on developing a type of battery that transcends capabilities of present generation lithium-ion technology – the lithium air battery. This is a battery IBM has also said would offer superior performance and would be available for commercial applications some time not long after 2020.

BMW and Toyota did not set a time frame for when the li-air battery they would co-develop might be ready for production.

What the companies did say is issued in the following points:

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.

Deepening Ties

Today’s BMW-Toyota meeting is the latest of public announcements and document signing ceremonies marking a strengthening of a long-term relationship, the first being a medium-to-long-term agreement signed in December 2011.

“TMC and the BMW Group share the same strategic vision of future sustainable mobility,” said Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “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.”

“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,” said Akio Toyoda, President of TMC. “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.”
This strategic partnership promises to be one of the more powerful ones among a number of such alliances automakers and related companies have found themselves making to meet a steep growth curve needed to meet U.S. CAFE and European efficiency mandates.

The lithium-air battery and hydrogen fuel cells, if successfully developed, would magnify present-day electric vehicle ranges manifold, and could open up a new day in electrified vehicle proliferation.