It has been less than a year since Toyota, working closely with little-known electric car startup Tesla, began developing an all-electric version of the RAV4. In the automotive world that isn't even a quarter of the time it normally takes to bring a new car to market, but that isn't stopping the 'Toyesla' team from charging ahead with plans to break down all the old assumptions, saying a fully production ready RAV4 EV will hit the market sometime in 2012.
In moving aggressively towards that goal, the two companies have announced that the RAV4 EV will be built on the same line as conventional RAV4s at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada's Woodstock, Ontario plant.
"The Tesla-Toyota joint development team has agreed that building the vehicle at the Woodstock plant on the same line as the gasoline-powered RAV4, will streamline and simplify the production process and guarantee the highest level of quality control," said Ray Tanguay, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Chairman. "This is a great example of Toyota's determination to collaborate with companies with leading edge technology."
With a fleet of 32 prototypes already built, the two companies have certainly shown what can be done when the production and resource prowess of an automotive giant is combined with the creativity and mindset of a startup. In fact, when we had a chance to test drive one of those RAV4 EV prototypes earlier this year - only six months after the project began - it became clear just how far it has come in such a short period of time: although they had a few rough edges they felt like mostly finished vehicles.
As part of the collaboration, Toyota is paying Tesla $100 million to supply the RAV4 EV's electric powertrain (battery, motor, gearbox, and power electronics). Tesla will build the powertrain at their recently acquired factory in Palo Alto, California. From there the finished powertrains will be shipped to Toyota's Canadian factory where final assembly will occur alongside Toyota's other RAV4s.
Given that the RAV4 EV will be based on the current generation RAV4 platform and Toyota plans on introducing a newly designed RAV4 in the next year, not only will two types of drivetrains be assembled simultaneously, two different body styles will also coexist on the same line.
If all goes according to plan, 2012 will mark the year of the plug-in car for Toyota, with the company planning not only on releasing the RAV4 EV, but also a plug-in version of the Prius and an all-electric version of the Scion iQ city car.