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BMW and Toyota join forces on new sports hybrid

The cost of developing new cars is such that creating common platforms for different models is now standard practice. So, too, are joint ventures between manufacturers and even the world’s largest and most successful marques are not above sharing development costs. BMW and Toyota are two such firms and the pair have collaborated on an exciting new project to replace BMW’s Z4.

The cost of developing new cars is such that creating common platforms for different models is now standard practice. So, too, are joint ventures between manufacturers and even the world’s largest and most successful marques are not above sharing development costs. BMW and Toyota are two such firms and the pair have collaborated on an exciting new project to replace BMW’s Z4. The radically new car utilises Toyota’s expertise in hybrid manufacture and will be the first production car to feature supercapacitor performance-boosting technology. The launch of the new two-seater sports car has been confirmed by both Toyota chief, Akio Toyoda, and BMW chairman, Norbert Reithofer.

The new motor will be a front-engine design and also four-wheel drive, using a combination of petrol engine and electric motors. Toyota is responsible for the car’s plug-in hybrid technology, which uses a supercapacitor system originally developed for the Japanese company’s Le Mans LMP1 performance car programme. Toyota sees the joint project as the next step towards developing a successor to the hugely popular Supra car. The supercapacitor technology provides efficient short-term storage for kinetic energy, which is then used to boost performance.

The supercapacitor system has been selected because of its ability to absorb and then discharge kinetic energy far quicker than lithium ion batteries. The supercapacitors are also lighter and smaller than these batteries and other energy storage systems. The system is not new and was first demonstrated by BMW on an X3 EfficientDynamics concept car back in 2005. Toyota then showed the Yaris Hybrid R at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, which had a 1.6 litre 300hp engine driving the front wheels and three 60hp electric motors powering the rear wheels. The rear motors also gave a power boost to the front wheels when required.

The new car will be based on this system and will be built around a 2.0 litre BMW petrol engine. BMW will also produce the electric motors, built according to designs provided by Toyota. The transmission is thought to be a manual sequential gearbox and an electronics system developed by Toyota will supply torque-vectoring capabilities. The new car’s body will make use of lightweight engineering techniques seen in the i3 and i8 and will utilise aluminium and carbon fibre in its construction.

Inside, the Toyota and BMW versions of the car will differ substantially, each being made according to the companies’ own specifications and cabin designs. It is thought that the project is only the first of a series of collaborative projects between the two car giants.

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