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Toyota confirms Tesla-powered electric RAV4

Bright spark: Toyota will borrow an electric drivetrain from Tesla for a RAV4 EV from 2012.

Electric RAV4 with Tesla electric power to join Toyota line-up in 2012

19 Jul 2010

TOYOTA has confirmed it will produce an all-electric version of its RAV4 compact SUV in 2012 using a powertrain supplied by American electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla Motors.

The world’s largest car-maker invested $US50 million ($A57.6m) to buy 3.2 per cent of the Californian start-up earlier this year, but the announcement on Friday reveals Toyota is serious about leveraging Tesla technology in the short term.

In a joint statement, Toyota and Tesla said the first RAV4 prototype had been built and would be tested with a ‘fleet’ of other prototypes this year.

They confirmed the vehicle would be an electric version of the RAV4, but stopped short of discussing the details, including whether it would have unique styling to differentiate it from combustion-engined RAV4 models.

The vehicle will be introduced in the US first. There was no mention of other markets.

While Toyota is working on a smaller electric city vehicle using Panasonic lithium battery technology, which is also expected to emerge in 2012, it also wants larger models with suitable battery packs – something Tesla can help with.

8 center imageLeft: Tesla Roadster. Below: Tesla Model S.

Toyota is believed to be interested in using Tesla technology for a full electric version of the Lexus RX SUV which is already available as a petrol-electric hybrid.

In an interview published in Bloomberg, Toyota US sales unity president Jim Lentz said the deal with Tesla would allow the company to “go in different directions at the same time”.

“A lot of our electric vehicle work has been in small, commuter-type cars, because that’s the direction we think most consumers will want to go. If that’s not right, we need to have alternatives in play,” he said.

Toyota is believed to be particularly interested in Tesla’s electric battery knowledge, with an advanced lithium ion battery pack already proving itself in the Tesla Roadster all electric sportscar.

Tesla , on the other hand, wants to benefit from Toyota’s engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise.

Tesla, which went public earlier this year to raise investment cash, bought the former GM-Toyota joint venture factoru New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI) in Fremont, California.

It will use the production facility to produce its anticipated second model, the Tesla S electric sedan, due on sale in 2012.

As reported by GoAuto, Tesla is also planning produce other models off the Tesla S platform, including an SUV, convertible and even a commercial van.

The company is preparing to launch a right-hand drive version of the existing Roadster model in Australia next month following an upgrade that allows it to better handle extremely hot conditions.

Shares in Tesla rose 2.7 per cent after the RAV4 announcement on Friday, while Toyota shares dipped 1.3 per cent.

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