By on July 17, 2010

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.

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22 Comments on “Let’s Do it Again: Toyota and Tesla Build RAV4 EV...”


  • avatar
    John Horner

    The original RAV4 EV was produced because California law at the time mandated it. During the Bush era, the federal government and auto makers ganged up on California in the courts and got California’s electric vehicle mandate set aside. Instantly thereafter, the electric vehicle efforts of all the major auto makers went into reverse. That is what killed the original RAV4 EV.

    Of course Toyota said it was all about doing right by the customer and had nothing to do with legal maneuvers. PR people aren’t paid to give the public the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      What killed the RAV4 EV, and all those other 90′s EVs, was that the technology wasn’t ready yet, and the cost to the manufactures was way too high. EVs weren’t outlawed, they were simply not longer mandated. If those 90′s EVs had all been flying off dealer lots like hotcakes, and the manufactures making a bundle on each one, would they have stopped just because the mandate had been removed?

    • 0 avatar
      holydonut

      Not only were they not selling well, they were being sold at a loss due to the fact that the cost of materials, labor, warranty, etc outweighed what people were willing to pay.

      Would you rather see Toyota “doing right by the customer” by continuing to sell a commercially non-viable (at that time) product that consumers themselves didn’t want? Customers may want an EV with 200 mile range for $25K… but the technology wasn’t there yet to provide such a product.

      Or would you rather see Toyota “doing right by the customer” by shifting to a hybrid powertrain offering technology at a price point that the customer did want? (Prius).

      Toyota may be rich and full of cash – but they’re not dumb. I think they chose correctly and a lot of customers benefited.

      Of course, I’m making an assumption that a Prius has a net positive impact (consumer and environment) compared to a Corolla – which s debate for another thread.

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    While I generally have zero interest in the Great Electric Car Debacle, I am fascinated by that drawing of the RAV4 EV. Is this a realistic representation of a vehicle that would actually see production or is it some engineer’s dream drawing? Interesting.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    They didn’t have “problems” with range. The batteries have lasted all this time with a few examples reaching 170K miles on the original batteries. With careful driving folks are STILL seeing 125 miles out of these Rav4-EVs. Normally they get between 60 and 100 miles per charge. Now that may not be enough for everybody but for most of us that would be fine.

    Alot of these RAV4-EVs are driving on power they generated by themselves on their own rooftops. Imagine these cars across the country (where they were suitable) with rooftop solar or home wind gennies instead of buying foreign oil!

    More for the gasoline/diesel powered crowds and less pollution.

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    To the daring go the spoils of victory in the EV market. Of course, most of the daring go into bankruptcy instead…

    What I am seeing is that a practical EV is very close, and battery technology is finally catching up in charge and price (mostly because of innovations and mass production spurred by the computer and cell phone industries). The problem from the beginning was the catch-22 of batteries – they were expensive because nobody was putting consistent R&D into them, and nobody would put consistent R&D into them because they were expensive.

    GM had the chance to be the leader, and could have sat there pumping out improved EV1s on a small scale while the money from SUVs flooded the company. Unfortunately, long-term thinking hasn’t been the forte of America in general or GM in specific over the past 20 years.

    We are in for an interesting ride. Hybrids are now commonplace, and EVs are soon to enter mass production. Unless gas prices crash and change the situation radically (unlikely given the demands of China and India) then we should see the growth of a new technology.

  • avatar
    ALB-MAN

    Why didn’t toyota partner up with ac propulsion. They already convert scions to electric vehicles and it would make more sense to partner up with a company that makes the technology instead of the company that uses it.

  • avatar
    Mercury_diSABLEd

    From what I remember, the original RAV4 EV used the GM EV1 powertrain and was scrapped at the same time as GM’s electric vehicle program.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    The way i recall it – GM bought a controlling interest in ECD for their EV1 program. Toyota/Panasonic had licensed the NiMH battery tech from ECD and improved it significantly. GM scrapped the EV1 program after spending millions and millions to end the CA EV mandate and then sold the NiMH patents to Texaco who was bought up by Chevron a week or so later. Chevron then sues Toyota/Panasonic for $30M to force them to quit making NiMH batteries large enough for EV uses. Panasonic argued that they had changed the NiMH technology significantly during their research and therefore no longer had the same battery design as the patent Chevron then held. Panasonic/Toyota lost. Chevron shelved the battery technology and would noto license it for EV uses thereby setting us back a decade on EVs which use technology from 20 years ago. Yeah there were EVs 100 years ago but none as modern as the RAV4-EV and others are today.

    So I’d like to see as many EVs on the road as possible wherever they work well (i.e. not necessarily up north during the winter) and not consuming oil. In the right parts of the country you can charge them about 6 sq yrds of solar panels on your roof and they use about as much electricity as another refrigerator.

    I’m not sold on lithium batteries. Would rather see very recyclable NiMH batteries available. Might happen b/c Bosch I think it was bought the Chevron patents. I expect the Lithiums to run about 60K and then taper off on range. The NiMH have run over 100K in the RAV4-EV from the early part of this decade with a few surpassing 170K now with no end in sight.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      In theory, the purpose of patents is to promote innovation by ensuring that the profits from innovation go to the creators. In practice, patent law is sometimes used to keep innovation from being commercialized.

      One of the reasons China is making such rapid technological progress is, perversely, China’s refusal to embrace western style intellectual property law.

  • avatar
    AaronH

    Toyota and Tesla hook-up was by political violence and not by freewill/freemarket business.

    • 0 avatar
      Tricky Dicky

      Aaron – unless you have some evidence to back up that statement then I’m going to make a call on it: “GARBAGE”.

      There’s not a shred of evidence that I have seen to suggest anything other than a lucky break meeting for Mr. Musk with Mr.Toyoda. A quickly hatched plan for Big-T to bury $50M in Tesla post-IPO. Toyota didn’t even negotiate the amount of equity they would ringfence in the deal (unlike Daimler the year before who bought a specific stake). Toyota only took whatever the market said their €50M was worth and there was about 2 months between the announcement of the deal and the IPO itself (plenty of time for valuation to fluctuate wildly).

      So what’s your point really?!

  • avatar
    postjosh

    actually, they sold quite well. a used one in good condition will set you back $40k today. tom hanks still owns one.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    a used one in good condition will set you back $40k today. tom hanks still owns one.

    at 40k is a new battery included?
    or another 10-15k for the batteries?

    when everybody & their cousins start plugging in to get juice( electricity ) u’ll know u’re getting screwed!

    Will the future tow trucks carry batteries?

    Some folks service the dead propane taxi on the road carry a small BBQ tank enuf to gimp to a LPG stn.

    A few blokes got caught in the east coast with new EV minis, as temp goes down the distance shrink. Just one of those days u just didnt want to be walking anywhere.
    As opposed it gets so cold your car refuse to go anywhere ” Please dont try to start me!, but got stuck outside.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    And people spend $30K+ for motorcycles and even more for two seater vehicles that don’t function well in anything but sunny weather, are very expensive and hardly offer enough utility to carry more than a change of underwear. And people still buy them. What is your point? Nobody is holding a gun to your head and making you buy anything big or small, electric or fossil fuel powered.

    These cars aren’t well suited for cold weather. Neither are horses or motorcycles if you want a heated or dry place to ride. In time I suspect that won’t be an issue either.

    People who own these will likely have a qst car wthat is gasoline or diesel powered leaving these EVs as a second car for bad weather and long trips. I’m sure that the EV folks know down to a mile how far their weekly destinations and whether they have enough juice to get there and back. The average EV range would last me all week without a recharge. Most of the people I know including the ones that drive to the next county to work could drive an EV. It may be different where you live. In that case buy something else.

    I don’t see the point to slamming these EVs because you just don’t like them. I can read that you know don’t like them. Your right and I’ll support that.

    A person has to choose the right job for their needs. You can’t tow a ski-boat with a Miata very well or run the Nurburgring track in an RV – and get there fast.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    All of these people saying 40k is ok for a (minimum 7 years old) used Toyota Rav4 EV??? But 40k is too expensive for a Volt.

    My biggest question is, how much is the new one going to cost? I am pretty sure that Telsa’s EV technology isn’t cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Well the “S” is supposed to retail at $50K isn’t it? And that is pretty exoitc stuff.

      I’d guess the RAV would be $35K or so? Standard RAV body, trim, and suspension plus an electric drivetrain. That is what the original RAV4-EV was.

      Make more and sell more so the price comes down please. I want one but not sure I want to pay that much for anything. Glad they are thinking forward.

      So what kind of battery life have the Tesla Roadsters had? Any battery replacements yet?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The S has been delayed till (from what I have been reading) to 2012. Price is 57,400, with a 7,500 tax credit.

      http://www.autoblog.com/2009/03/19/tesla-model-s-will-cost-57-400-just-49-900-after-tax-breaks/

      I would be surprised to see the RAV 4 with a 35k MSRP. 42,500 with a 7,500 tax break, maybe. It will be interesting to see.

  • avatar

    There we go. That makes sense. Make it so Tesla only has to worry about batteries, and they might have a shot. I’d like an electric car, but we can’t all drive/afford lotuses, can we?

  • avatar
    brettc

    I bet Ed Begley is excited about this. Me, not so much. I’ll keep my TDI.


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