BMW, Toyota Ink Green Partnership

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The alliance will focus on producing batteries for electric cars and will also branch out into consumer electronics. (Image: Flavio Takemoto)
The alliance will focus on producing batteries for electric cars and will also branch out into consumer electronics. (Image: Flavio Takemoto)

BUSINESS

  • BMW to supply diesel engines for Toyota’s European operations
  • Pair to develop lithium-ion battery technology for electric hybrid vehicles
  • BMW to release new electric hybrid car in 2012

BMW has entered into a partnership with Toyota to supply diesel engines and jointly develop hybrid power batteries.

The environmentally stable technology alliance will bring together the world’s largest automaker and the world’s largest luxury carmaker, combining the two companies’ competing areas of expertise.

Toyota is a leader in petrol-electric hybrid power but has struggled to make a big impact in Europe where diesel leads the way in the fuel efficient car market.

BMW’s diesel expertise will boost Toyota’s European operations, while the German manufacturer will benefit from Toyota’s hybrid technology to help it bridge the gap to other gas-electric carmakers.

Toyota will use BMW’s 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter diesel power units, which will be introduced into the Japanese automaker’s European production line from 2014.

Change of Stance

In the past, the two carmakers rejected each other’s technologies. BMW said Toyota’s pioneering hybrid electric system was not an environmentally stable solution for the auto industry, while Toyota steadfastly maintained that its diesel power units were just as good as BMW’s.

The partnership reflects a turnaround in each company’s stance, with BMW already pumping investment into its hybrid technology, and Toyota admitting the superiority of BMW’s diesel engines.

Representatives of each company said the deal did not include plans for capital tie-ups, though a Toyota executive said the Japanese carmaker could be interested in buying into BMW, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Battery Technology Key

The pair will pool resources to make advances in lithium-ion battery technology, which remains a complex and expensive industry. The development will focus on producing batteries for electric cars but will also branch out into consumer electronics for portable devices such as laptop computers.

BMW board member Klaus Draeger said the partnership would help drive lithium-ion technology forward and that this was key to gaining the upper hand in the hybrid car market.

“Toyota and BMW are perfect partners. By carrying out basic research together, we want to speed up development of battery-powered technology. Whoever has the best batteries in terms of cost and function will win more customers,” said Draeger.

Last month at the Tokyo Motor Show, BMW unveiled its much-discussed ActiveHybrid 5, a hybrid model based on the 535i sedan, powered by a 3.0-liter twin turbo gasoline engine with an electric drivetrain, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a lithium-ion battery pack.

The German automaker also made hybrid headlines when it unveiled two electric concept cars at the LA Auto Show in California, hinting at the future partnership with Toyota. The i-series will be BMW’s new sustainable power car line, with the i3 sporting all-electric technology and the i8 running on hybrid power.

The ActiveHybrid 5 is expected to hit US showrooms early in 2012, while i-series production models are slated for 2014.

Toyota has said it does not have immediate plans for releasing an all-electric model.

Key Statistics – Global Electric Vehicles (source: Global Industry Analysts)

  • The global electric vehicles market is forecast to top 2.5 million units by end 2015.
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicles account for more than 95% of all electric vehicles worldwide.
  • In Japan electric vehicle sales are expected to reach around 435,000 units by 2012.
  • The United States accounts for more than half of the global electric vehicles market.

By James Mulholland for
James Mulholland is a Paris-based internet and broadcast journalist specializing in sports, current affairs and technology news, while also freelancing as a photographer.

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