bmw-toyota-logo1Toyota and BMW will jointly research a lithium-air battery expected to be more powerful than the lithium-ion batteries used in today’s hybrids and EVs, the two carmakers said.

The cooperation will also include work on a fuel cell vehicle system (fuel cell stack, hydrogen tank and motor) by 2020, and a shared platform and technology for a mid-sized sports car. The latter will be completed by the end of 2013. Now that we know the brilliant 86 isn’t a one-off, we can’t wait to see the fruits of this marriage.

There’s also a plan to reduce the weight of vehicle bodies through the use of lightweight materials, such as reinforced composites, and this could be fed back into the sports car project.

The strengthening of the partnership between Toyota, the world’s best-selling automaker, and BMW, the largest premium carmaker, will allow them to cut development costs as competition intensifies globally, reports Reuters.

“In order for FCVs (fuel cell vehicles) to become more widely used, it needs to be cheaper. That would require a great deal of time and cost for development,” said Toyota vice chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, the man who led development of the Prius in the late 90s. “By bringing together the wisdom of two companies, we can aim to make FCVs more popular much quicker,” he told a news conference with BMW at Nagoya.

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Toyota said it wanted to introduce a new fuel cell vehicle around 2020 using the jointly developed technology, while BMW said a launch date had not been decided. Toyota aims to start selling a fuel cell sedan by around 2015.

Now, what about the lithium-air battery? A lithium-air battery has its anode filled with lithium, and cathode with air. Theoretically, the battery can generate and store more electricity than the existing lithium-ion standard. The technology is being studied by researchers including IBM, which is working to develop a lithium-air battery that will let electric vehicles run 800 km on one charge.

Toyota, eager to strengthen its diesel engine line-up in a sagging European market, agreed in 2011 to collaborate with BMW on lithium-ion battery research in exchange for a steady supply of BMW-made diesel engines starting in 2014. BMW, which needs to cut carbon emissions of its new car fleet by roughly a third by 2020, agreed with Toyota in 2012 to work on fuel cells and electrified powertrains too.

The two companies reiterated that they had no plans for a capital tie-up.