'

Ford, Toyota collaborate on hybrid system for trucks, SUVs

Automotive giants Ford and Toyota have announced that they will "equally collaborate" on the development of new hybrid system for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

This just in: hybrid R&D is expensive.

Rival automotive giants Ford and Toyota on Monday announced that they will "equally collaborate" on the development of new hybrid system for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

Both companies had previously been working independently on their own rear-wheel drive hybrid systems; the collaboration is expected to help them bring these hybrid technologies to customers "sooner and more affordably than either company could have accomplished alone," they said.

The agreement -- bringing the manufacturer of the Prius (and Tacoma) and the maker of the Fusion Hybrid (and F-150) together in the lab -- suggests that developing a rear-wheel drive hybrid powertrain has been a steeper challenge than expected.

The goal is to bring greater fuel efficiency to trucks and SUVs, which have traditionally lagged behind small cars in this area. The problem: these vehicles weigh down, so to speak, the automakers' abilities to meet stringent new federal regulations for fleet fuel efficiency.

Interestingly, the companies also agreed to work together on "enablers to complement" each company's existing telematics platform standards -- Ford's Sync system, powered by Microsoft, and Toyota's Entune system, powered by QNX.

That's the keyword here: standards. All of this development is costly and time-consuming, and automakers don't want to find themselves producing proprietary systems that fail to take off in a highly competitive market. The best way to hedge your bets? Come to an agreement.

Still, the companies say they will integrate the new hybrid system in future vehicles independently, assuring folks that they're not collaborating too closely. Ditto for the telematics: "Each company will continue to separately develop their own in-vehicle products and features."

Vehicles with the new tech are expected "later this decade."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com