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Toyota teases RAV4 EV

Tesla-powered: Toyota's first modern EV for the US will be revealed within a week.

All-electric Tesla-powered RAV4 concept partially revealed prior to LA show

12 Nov 2010

A DAY after Land Rover revealed the five-door version of its most fuel-efficient vehicle ever, Toyota has released the first two teaser images of the all-electric RAV4 concept car it will also unveil at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 17.

Co-developed with Tesla Motors Inc, which will supply battery packs and electric motors for the vehicle, the RAV EV will go on sale in North America in 2012.

No further details have been revealed, but apart from a stylised ‘Toyota EV’ rear-end badge, the teaser images indicate the RAV4 EV Concept will have a speedo that reads to 220km/h and comprises an LCD read-out with the words “RAV4 Powered by Tesla’ replacing the standard odometer.

Toyota says further specifications and details of the Tesla-powered plug-in compact SUV will be announced at LA and has not revealed where the RAV4 EV will be built.

However, US news service Bloomberg has reported Tesla CEO Elon Musk as saying in a conference call late on Tuesday (November 9) that initially only about 2000 examples will be produced “This is a test fleet,” Mr Musk told Bloomberg. “The initial phase is in the couple thousand-unit range.”

8 center imageToyota announced in July it would produce an electric version of the RAV4 after buying a 3.2 per cent stake in the start-up Silicon Valley EV manufacturer for $US50 million in May. Toyota’s contribution to the project is believed to be $US60 million, while Panasonic Corp has agreed to invest $US30 million.

The world’s largest car-maker said the fitment of its RAV4 with an electric powertrain from Tesla is the latest example of Toyota’s efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels and cut CO2 emissions by developing more efficient and alternative powertrains.

“By working together, Tesla will benefit from Toyota’s manufacturing expertise, while Toyota aims to learn from Tesla’s EV technology capabilities, and its responsive and flexible approach to business and decision making,” said Toyota yesterday.

Long before its Prius became a byword for the hybrid vehicle movement, Toyota produced an electric version of its first-generation RAV4 between 1996 and 2003.

While the Prius has now notched up more than one million global sales, the original RAV4 EV was the world’s first vehicle to be powered by nickel-metal hydride battery technology – which continues to be employed by all Toyota and Lexus hybrids – and found around 1900 customers.

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

It is not clear whether the RAV4 EV will look any different to the standard RAV, or if it will eventually be sold outside the US.

While Toyota is working on a smaller electric city vehicle using Panasonic lithium-ion battery technology, which is also expected to emerge in 2012, it 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.

Toyota, which has committed to introducing a hybrid version of its entire model line-up by 2020, is currently conducting a global field trial of its Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which will be among the first Toyota models to be powered (in part) by a lithium-ion battery.

Meantime, following the completion of its initial public share offering in recent months, Tesla this week posted a $US34.9 million loss in the third quarter of 2010 – far greater than the $4.6 million loss it recorded in the same period last year.

The result follows a 31.4 per cent fall in revenue to $US31.2 million and an increase in research and development spending, from just $US1.3 million in the third quarter of 2009 and $US15.4 million in the second quarter of this year to $US26.7 million in the last quarter.

The extra costs are due to the Model S electric sedan, which Tesla says is on schedule to be sold in the US from 2012 for about $57,400. Until then, Tesla says it will remain unprofitable while it continues to market the Tesla Roadster EV globally, including in Australia.

“The near-term quarterly profitability is not a particularly meaningful goal because we’re spending on the order of half a billion dollars over the next nine quarters,” said Mr Musk on Tuesday.

“So you can expect to see some fairly significant expenses there. It’s really the only way to execute the business given that we’re going from roughly 600 units a year to roughly 20,000 units a year.” Tesla will use the former GM-Toyota joint-venture factory in Fremont, California - New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI), which it bought earlier this year – to produce the Model S.

As we’ve reported, Tesla plans to employ the Model S platform underneath a range of future Tesla models, including an SUV, convertible and even a commercial van.

Apart from the RAV4 EV and Range Rover Evoque five-door, also confirmed to debut at the 2010 LA show next week are Saab’s 9-4X crossover, Volkswagen’s latest Eos coupe-convertible, Nissan’s Murano Cross Cabrio concept and Chrysler’s 200 sedan and convertible.

Also among up to 20 world debut will be concept cars from Subaru and Cadillac, the Optima Hybrid from Kia, Mercedes-Benz’s CLS63 AMG, Nissan’s Ellure concept, Mitsubishi’s larger i-MiEV and Nissan’s latest Quest, while Honda will show an EV concept, Mazda will stage the motor show debut of its Shinari concept, Chevrolet will show the production Camaro convertible and Acura will show its TSX sedan.

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