The first fruit of an alliance between BMW and Toyota will be a two-seat sports car that will bring performance-boosting supercapacitor technology to a series-production model for the first time.
Confirmed by BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer and Toyota boss Akio Toyoda late last year, the new sports car will sire a radically different BMW Z4 replacement, previewed here, and a spiritual successor to the Supra, at which Toyota hinted with its FT-1 concept at the Detroit motor show in January.
The new sports car will feature a front-engined layout. But unlike Toyota’s FT-1 concept, it is likely to be four-wheel drive thanks to the use of a direct-injection petrol engine and electric motors. These power sources will form part of a high-tech supercapacitor-touting hybrid system that draws on technology and expertise gained from Toyota’s Le Mans LMP1 sports car programme.
Toyota’s role in the sports car project centres around a newly developed plug-in hybrid system. It uses supercapacitors for short-term kinetic energy storage and a performance boost.
BMW and Toyota have chosen supercapacitors because they can absorb and discharge kinetic energy more rapidly than the latest generation of lithium ion batteries. They are also typically smaller and lighter than existing energy storage sources. BMW first aired the technology on the X3 Efficient Dynamics concept car in 2005 and has been pushing hard to bring it to production.
At its heart will be a BMW-engineered petrol engine of no more than 2.0 litres in capacity. It will be combined with electric motors produced by BMW at its engine plant in Munich to specifications supplied by Toyota. Drive will be channelled through a sequential manual gearbox. A Toyota-developed electronics system is expected to provide torque-vectoring capability.
BMW is leading the body engineering of the new sports car. "We will adopt lightweight solutions created in the development of the i3 and i8," a BMW source said at the recent Geneva motor show.
Details are scarce, but insiders involved on early engineering proposals suggest that the new car will use a high-strength steel and aluminium floorpan with carbonfibre elements for added weight savings.
The outer body is expected to make use of carbonfibre-reinforced plastic materials. Despite sharing a common platform, the new BMW and Toyota will have individual styling and interior designs.
The sportscar will be one of a series of future BMW-Toyota projects to use common engineering solutions and shared components, according to officials. Shared platform structures and contemporary new hybrid drivelines are also planned.