Speculation regarding a soon to be announced technology sharing agreement between BMW and Toyota has been making the rounds of the interwebs. The bulk of the speculation has focused on BMW obtaining access to Toyota’s hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell research. And then later in the day, information on what Toyota may get from the deal appeared. They may be getting access to BMW’s CFRP forming tech.
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First, BMW shelved its hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine project a couple of years ago. The issue was said to be lack of a clear direction on infrastructure to support hydrogen powered cars. In addition, BMW was not looking at the relatively costly research into hydrogen fuel cells. At the time it was nowhere near production ready and still has a way to go. But, BMW has been using hydrogen fuel cell powered fork lifts in its Spartanburg, SC plant.
Hydrogen fuel cells are still a ways off – but only by a decade or so. As the cost to produce the fuel cells (the $ per Kw cost) goes down, more auto makers will be interested in the technology. But the cost of the research that has to be borne to get to that point is more than a company the size of BMW can bear alone. It’s best to have a partner.
The other piece of tech that Toyota is purported to be sharing is its hybrid knowledge. BMW, of course, has several mild hybrid vehicles in production at the moment. Those models take advantage of the flexibility of the ZF 8 speed automatic gearbox to provide the hybrid functionality.
However, don’t think that the technology transfer is all hardware, the odds are the technology that BMW is most interested in from Toyota is the software that makes it work. Again, coding is a labor intensive and expensive process. It makes sense to have a strong – knowledgable partner with the experience to make hybrid tech work through a web of ‘0’s and ‘1’s.
But the interesting piece of this is the speculation that BMW will share its CFRP manufacturing process with Toyota. This isn’t sharing the manufacture of the raw material (the SGL connection). Rather, this will be sharing the high pressure resin transfer molding technology (HP-RTM) that BMW will be using to build the i model passenger cells. When BMWBLOG was at the Leipzig work recently, we were told that aviation manufacturers were lining up to get a look at how BMW is building the CFRP panels.
If true, that tells us that the HP-RTM tech BMW is using is exclusive to them, and not something that was developed wholly outside of BMW. If that’s truly the case, bravo BMW for beating the world to that production process.
We’ll bring you more on this when we have a chance to read and digest the announcement.