Toyota, BMW to explore joint sports car project
Tie-up includes lightweight technologies
TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG have outlined specifics of their technical tie-up, saying they will begin a feasibility study to define a joint platform concept for a mid-sized sports vehicle. They aim to complete the study by year end.
They also said they would cooperate in developing lightweight technologies. Those likely will include carbon-fiber materials, for use in the shared sports car platform. BMW has been an automotive leader in development and use of carbon-fiber materials.
Separately, Toyota showed a concept sports sedan with a roof made of carbon-fiber material.
Other areas where Toyota and BMW said they would cooperate, as part of an agreement unveiled in 2011, include joint development of a hydrogen fuel cell system by 2020 and research into next-generation lithium-based batteries.
Toyota and BMW will team in developing a new generation of batteries with higher energy density than the lithium ion batteries now used in hybrid and electric cars. They cited lithium-air batteries as the new chemistry to be explored.
Toyota's concept car, unveiled last month at the Tokyo Auto Salon, Japan's version of the Specialty Equipment Market Association equipment and tuner show, represents Toyota's latest stab at using carbon fiber, following the retirement of the Lexus LFA sports car.
This time, the carbon-fiber concept carries the Toyota badge, not Lexus'. The carbon-fiber roof was shown on a sporty version of the Japan-market Toyota Mark X sedan.
It is a strong hint at how Toyota plans to use more of the ultralight, superstrong material throughout its lineup.
The Mark X is positioned just below the Camry. A special G's sports version of the Mark X was introduced in October. Toyota replaced that car's roof with a carbon-fiber one for the SEMA-like show.
The move shaves 13 pounds from the Mark X and lowers the center of gravity by a fraction of an inch, in the interest of making the car sportier.
Toyota won't say whether the carbon fiber-roofed Mark X will enter production. Doing so would be the automaker's first use of the pricey material outside of the $375,000 Lexus LFA.
The LFA boasted a body that was 65 percent carbon-fiber material and 35 percent aluminum, by weight. Using those lightweight materials helped Toyota pump up the LFA's top speed to 202 mph.
After a two-year limited-edition run of 500 units, the final LFA came off the line on Dec. 14.
With the end of LFA production, Toyota is looking for new ways to use the in-house carbon-fiber mill it opened inside its Motomachi assembly plant complex in Toyota City. Aside from making spare parts for the LFA, the carbon-fiber line remains largely idle.
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