Tesla-Toyota Relationship On Hold After Rocky RAV4 EV Program

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

Just four years ago, Tesla and Toyota entered into a relationship where the former would supply battery packs for the latter’s RAV4 EV. In turn, Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla, and sold the NUMMI facility — which Toyota once shared with General Motors — for $42 million. Things have changed, in the sage words of Bob Dylan.

Bloomberg reports the relationship — coming to a close with the end with the RAV4 EV program and Toyota’s new focus on hydrogen — was marred early on when engineers for both automakers fought over the EV crossover’s parking brake and an enclosure that would protect its battery from the road. Further, proprietary issues between Tesla and Toyota regarding energy-capture systems strained development of the crossover’s own system.

With most of the 2,600 RAV4 EVs delivered, Toyota changed its focus on hydrogen, a technology Tesla CEO Elon Musk mockingly refers to as “fool cells” due to their complexity and high costs hindering any success hydrogen may have. In response, Toyota Motor Sales senior vice president Bob Carter proclaimed “competitors who dismiss fuel cells out of hand do so at their own peril,” and personally doesn’t care what Musk or other detractors think about the parent company’s new path.

While the partnership may be “on hold” for the time being, both companies are working with other automakers in separate projects, such as Toyota and BMW co-developing a sports car, and Tesla providing batteries for Daimler’s Mercedes B-Class EV.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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10 of 28 comments
  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Aug 08, 2014

    "fool cells" is a good one I hadn't heard before; Mr Musk is right. Tesla won't mind the breakup; those 2600 batteries & fixin's probably only amounted to a week's worth of Model S revenue at this point.

  • APaGttH APaGttH on Aug 08, 2014

    This was always a relationship of convenience. Toyota wanted to unload NUMMI and needed a way to put their toe in the EV waters without a massive investment. Tesla at the time needed to look like a legit car maker and needed a factory for the S. Toyota has always dismissed full electric vehicles, and has said for a decade hybrids and H2 is the answer.

  • Mike1dog Mike1dog on Aug 08, 2014

    You have to wonder why anyone would fight over a parking brake.

    • See 4 previous
    • WheelMcCoy WheelMcCoy on Aug 09, 2014

      @Pch101 I agree. A marriage of convenience from the start, a breakup was inevitable. But the spats reminds me of when Microsoft was a young upstart, teaming up with old stodgy IBM to work on OS/2. That didn't end well either.

  • Blowfish Blowfish on Aug 09, 2014

    Tesla’s experience developing their Roadster indicated an electronic brake would be better than a parking pawl. Toyota would have none of it. only way it works safely will be similar to air brakes, u need electricity to free it to move. Or else means juice to stop or lock, that doesn't look good at all.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Aug 09, 2014

      That's exactly the thing, BF; when Tesla's cars run out of juice, the brakes lock to prevent it from moving. Naturally this makes them very difficult to tow unless you feed them enough juice to unlock the brakes. A lot of people complain about this, but it's a very efficient means of ensuring the car won't roll away if/when the battery dies.