Prepared remarks by TMC Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada
Concerning signing of binding collaborative agreements with BMW Group
In December 2011, we announced that we had begun collaborative work with BMW Group, and in June last year in Germany BMW Group Chairman Norbert Reithofer and TMC President Akio Toyoda together announced the signing of a MoU by the two companies. Today, a little over one year since our collaboration began, I'm very happy to be able to announce the signing of official contracts and to provide details.
The four projects signed today contain very exciting content for both companies and for me personally. Directly targeted at current issues facing the automotive industry, these projects hold promise for the future of automobiles.
Environmental and energy issues are the biggest issues facing the automobile industry today, and I am of the belief that energy efficiency and diversification of energy sources are solutions. TMC has already launched gasoline-electric hybrids, a plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles—all eco-cars matched to their best use in the market. In addition to these, I personally have great expectations for the fuel-cell vehicle as the ultimate eco-car.
Fuel-cell vehicles run on electricity produced from the combination of onboard hydrogen fuel and oxygen taken from the air. All that comes from the exhaust pipe is water. Furthermore, on a full tank, a fuel-cell vehicle can travel as far—if not farther—than a conventional gasoline-engine vehicle. Refueling, also, is just as quick and easy as with a gas-powered car. So, when it comes to convenience, fuel-cell vehicles and gas-powered vehicles are on par.
However, with current technologies, costs are still high. They will need to come down further for fuel cell vehicles to gain widespread use. For this, we need to put a lot of time and money into development. This brings me to the first of our collaborative projects. Under the BMW Group and TMC agreement to jointly develop a fundamental fuel-cell vehicle system, our companies will bring together their respective knowledge and experience, thereby significantly accelerating the process toward fuel-cell vehicle popularization. We also believe that our collaboration on related aspects of the effort, such as preparing hydrogen infrastructure, will be a great driving force.
In around 2020, we are aiming to complete joint development of a fuel-cell vehicle system aimed at furthering widespread use. Also around that time, TMC aims to launch a fuel-cell vehicle equipped with the jointly developed technologies.
The second project is the joint-development of a shared-platform for a mid-size sports car. It is clear that cars must be exciting. Driving one should be thrilling, the design should give you a glimpse of the future, and the environmental performance should be at the highest level.
As such, we have decided to work together on such a car: a car fit to be called "the sports car of the 21st century". We want to show the next generation the charm of automobiles and the fun of driving. We plan to announce specifications and other details within the year.
The third project is our work on lightweight technology. Making cars weigh less contributes directly to improved fuel economy, handling and safety. If the reinforced composites to be jointly developed by BMW Group and TMC can be brought to market affordably, it could change the future of cars. This technology is also planned to be incorporated into the sports car I previously mentioned.
Lastly, the fourth project concerns joint research of post-lithium-ion battery technology. Our research is progressing with the aim of creating a lithium-air battery, a lithium battery that functions through an electro-chemical reaction with oxygen in the air. The energy density of this battery would greatly exceed that of current lithium-ion batteries.
So, as you can see, these four projects are vital to the future of making ever-better cars. And, as you may have gathered, I personally expect great things—I believe these projects hold promise for the future of automobiles.
BMW and TMC both represent their home nations and are steeped in the traditions of cutting-edge technology and craftsmanship. You can expect many fruits to come from our work together.