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Electric RAV4 just the beginning of Toyota-Tesla tie-up

Cross the wires: Toyota’s electric RAV4 is just the beginning of the Japanese giant’s collaboration with pioneering EV company Tesla.

Tesla to announce further EV collaboration projects with Toyota later this year

19 Aug 2011

TOYOTA’S tie-up with EV brand Tesla Motors looks set to go much further than producing an all-electric version of its RAV4 crossover, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk set to announce a project “later this year” that will make the RAV4 collaboration look small by comparison according to Tesla Motors Australia’s national sales and marketing manager Jay McCormack.

The news comes shortly after Toyota’s announcement that the electric RAV4s will be built alongside internal combustion-powered variants at Toyota’s Woodstock facility in Ontario, Canada.

Toyota will pay Tesla approximately $100 million to supply the electric drivetrain components including battery, motor, transmission and related control electronics which will be built at Tesla’s Silicon Valley facility before being shipped to Canada for installation.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada chairman Ray Tanguay said building the electric RAV4 alongside the conventional version would “simplify the production process and guarantee the highest level of quality control”.

“This is a great example of Toyota’s determination to collaborate with companies with leading edge technology,” he said.

RAV4 EVs will be sold to the general public from next year alongside Toyota’s other planned EV, an all-electric version of its tiny iQ city car, which carries the company’s youth-oriented Scion branding.

8 center imagePricing and unit volume for the electric RAV4 – which along with any other pure EV from Toyota is not on the agenda for Australia – are yet to be announced.

As GoAuto has reported, Toyota invested $US50 million in Tesla in May of last year, and announced a joint-development of EV technology, shortly followed by confirmation that it would be producing an electric version of its popular RAV4.

Tesla converted 32 conventional RAV4s into EV prototypes for testing and demonstration purposes, which Toyota claimed lost no cargo space over the standard car. Toyota says the vehicles that go on-sale will have been thoroughly re-engineered as EVs.

The prototypes – claimed to consistently achieve a 160km battery range in a wide range of climates and conditions – featured cosmetic changes limited to a revised front bumper, grille, headlights and foglights, plus a ‘mutually exclusive’ paint colour while the interior had unique seat trim, a push-button gearshift and specific dashboard meters and multimedia displays.

These prototypes weigh about 100kg more than a V6-powered RAV4 but are said to accelerate from 0-100km/h almost as quickly.

Toyota Motor Sales USA president Jim Lentz said the added weight “required significant retuning of major components and a focus on weight distribution”.

“Not only were suspension and steering modified significantly, major components needed to be relocated to better balance the increased mass.”

This is not the first time Toyota has dabbled with producing an electric RAV4. In 1997 it produced 1484 electric variants for use in California, drawing power from a nickel-metal hydride battery pack that provided a range of 125-160 kilometres. Around half of those original EVs are thought to still be on the road.

Tesla has also provided EV technology to Daimler, another of its automotive industry stakeholders, for use in its battery-powered Smart ForTwo.

However the recently-announced new-generation ForTwo ED has dropped Tesla’s drivetrain componentry in favour of a German-developed system from Deutsche ACCUmotive, which provides a 17.6kWh battery to provide a 25km greater range than the Tesla-sourced 14kWh unit’s 115km.

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