BMW, Toyota partner on lithium-ion battery R&D

Two automotive giants decide to share notes and cut costs to develop next-generation powertrains.

Japanese automotive giant Toyota and German automaker BMW announced this morning that they will jointly research a lithium-air battery for use in hybrid and fully electric vehicles.

The goal is to produce a battery more powerful than what's available on the market today, according to a Reuters report, as well as a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle system, expected by 2020.

It's a marriage of two giants: Toyota is the world's leading car company and BMW is the leader in the premium segment. A joint venture will allow them to keep research and development costs down as rival automakers pursue similar technologies.

Hybrid and fully electric vehicles have begun to gain market share, but hydrogen fuel cell vehicles -- which produce only water as a byproduct -- have not been so lucky. BMW in particular has conducted extensive tests with the technology over the years.

Toyota, on the other hand, has thrown its weight behind lithium-ion batteries, including them in its popular Prius model, among others. The goal here would be to develop a lithium-air battery -- not quite the same as a lithium-ion battery -- that can power a vehicle 500 miles on a single charge.

The partnership is also a quid pro quo business decision: BMW gets access to Toyota Li-ion research in exchange for supply of diesel engines, popular in the European market. They'll also develop a shared platform for a mid-sized sports car.

Photo: BMW's ActiveHybrid 3. (BMW)

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