Finally something tangible out of the Toyota/Tesla-hookup: Tesla and Toyota will build an electric version of Toyota’s RAV4 compact crossover. According to a communiqué by Toyota, the two companies signed an agreement to that effect. The E-RAV4 is supposed to be available in the United States in 2012. So fast? Well, it’s as simple as combining the Toyota RAV4 model with a Tesla electric powertrain, says Toyota. The first prototype has already been built and is now undergoing testing. Tesla will “produce and deliver a fleet of prototypes to Toyota for evaluation within this year.”
No more is known or will be divulged, except that “Tesla seeks to learn and benefit from Toyota’s engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise, while Toyota aims to learn from Tesla’s EV technology, daring spirit, quick decision-making, and flexibility.” Toyota had plans to introduce EVs into the market by 2012, and by using what T&T have, that goal most likely can be reached quicker and for less money than by starting from scratch.
This is not the first electric RAV4 to be built. Toyota built the first RAV4 EV in 1997. By 2003, Toyota had sold or leased 328 RAV4 EVs. Then, the vehicle was discontinued. In a press release issued for that occasion, Toyota said “ that in order to have a positive environmental impact, a large number of consumers must embrace the technology. In order for this to happen, the vehicle must meet the lifestyle needs of, and be affordable to, the mass market.” At the time, Toyota had problems with range and useful life of the battery. When the old RAV4 EV was scrapped, Toyota said that “the cost to replace the battery is more than the value of the vehicle.” Hopefully, some of this has changed by now.