BMW will use Toyota fuel cell technology when it launches its first FCEV -- a hydrogen-fuelled version of its i3 by 2016 -- as part of the two car-makers' technical partnership.
Although he did not specifically mention the i3 FCEV or its timing, that's the clear message received from Toyota USA's advanced vehicle boss, Craig Scott.
Speaking to motoring.com.au during a recent visit to the US, the Torrance California (USA) based National Manager Advanced Technology Vehicles intimated strongly that BMW would leverage Toyota technology in a fuel cell version of the new-generation i car.
Answering questions regarding the rollout of fuel cell vehicles into the Californian and US markets, Scott stated: "We have a joint partnership with BMW, so we know... where they’re headed.
"It’s a technology development program where we are supposed to be jointly developing a fuel cell powertrain," Scott explained.
"I’ll just say that BMW had a lot of choices – there are a lot of people who make fuel cells – and we’re very happy they chose us. [But] They’ve never made a fuel cell before, so this is going to be a good experience, I think, for them and probably for us.
"How much joint is involved I’m not sure. But, you know, I think both companies have a lot to learn from each other."
When questioned on whether BMW would take a 'plug and play' approach with Toyota's series-production fuel cell technology in a fuel cell version of the i3, Scott suggested crash test regulations would play the biggest part of the integration program.
"It’s just going to come down to meeting crash [testing requirements]... So they’re going to have to find a way to package it [Toyota's fuel cell stack in the i3] such that they can meet [safety regulations].
"If there were no regulations, per se, then you would put it anywhere you like. But... there would probably be some reinforcement of the chassis, for some parts, to make sure that there’s no infringement during a high-speed accident. The same thing for the [hydrogen] tanks," he stated.
BMW has previously produced vehicles powered by hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines, but the i3-based fuel cell electric vehicle will be the German car-maker's first FCEV.
Toyota’s first production fuel cell vehicle will next year go on sale in Germany, the UK and US, where it will cost $US69,000 ($A73,640). It will also be sold in Japan, where Toyota has announced a 7 million Yen ($A73,100) price tag.
Toyota sources this week told US media outlet Bloomberg that the company was reviewing the naming of its fuel cell vehicle.
To date the fuel cell sedan, which we drove in Japan last year has been referred to as the FCV, but now 'Mirai' has been floated as a name.
Mirai, says Bloomberg, is the Japanese word for future.
Whether it's called FCV or Mirai, Scott says the company is keen to 'sell' the normalcy of the three-box sedan's day to day use. Indeed, appealing to the conventional is one of the reasons the new car is packaged as a sedan.
It's also why, in spite of the futuristic external touches, the cabin and controls are little different from other Toyotas.
"The whole idea behind this for us is that we want to make it just like you’re driving a Corolla or a Camry," Scott told motoring.com.au.
"We don’t want you to feel any different, because, quite frankly, that’s been a big issue with other sorts of technologies.
"So this car drives remarkably like [a conventional car]… It’s [still] quite like an electric vehicle, but I think the handling is much more comparable to a gasoline vehicle -- especially this particular car because the centre of gravity is very low.
"We had it last week out at our proving grounds in Arizona... [and had] a really interesting time on our slalom course with it," he enthused.
Scott also revealed that Toyota plans to have at least three fuel cell models in production within the next decade but, regardless of how 'normal' its first FCV is to drive, Toyota Australia says it has no plans to sell it here.
Apart from fuel cell technology, Toyota and BMW are also collaborating on a sports car project, which as we've reported is expected to culminate in a replacement for BMW's Z4 roadster and a born-again Supra for Toyota.