Toyota RAV4 EV to Debut at Los Angeles Auto Show in November

· · 7 years ago

It almost doesn't seem possible. Just three months after we learned that the Toyota/Tesla alliance was more than just a capital-raising, technology-sharing venture—and that it would send a real vehicle to the market in less than three years—the carmaker has announced that we will actually see the fruits of that collaboration this fall. According to the company's Twitter feed, the Toyota RAV4 EV will make its debut at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

In July, we learned that the RAV4 plug-in was in development, and even got the chance to talk to two Toyota representatives about the car, which is scheduled to hit the market in 2012. The RAV4 will be fitted with Tesla's lithium ion battery technology and be redesigned to be more aerodynamic. Toyota told that the RAV4 was an ideal platform because it allows engineers to "pack a lot more battery for longer range." What exactly that range might be remains to be seen.

Toyota has already received a prototype RAV4 EV and has been testing it, but this announcement means that it's likely the company thinks it has something it can work with. It will be interesting to see what about this car made Toyota a believer after years of playing the waiting game with fully electric vehicles. In November, we should get our first clues.


· · 7 years ago

Wow. Can't wait to see what they can do. Also just a bit sad that it took so long for "gen 2" to see the light of day. Imagine where we could have been today with this car if they had incrementally improved it over the years..

· · 7 years ago

We want a RAV4 EV with all wheel drive for mountain snow!

· · 7 years ago

I must admit this is huge. The new RAV4s are very attractive to me and if they can produce at least a 150 mile range what is not to love? I can't wait to see what parts of the Tesla battery system they utilize. Hope they can keep the price down to earth.

· · 7 years ago

I'm also excited to see what they have been working on. I would love to have the utility of an small SUV, especially if it offered 4wd, offered as a BEV. The SUV, small and large has been the vehicle of choice of many families, whether they actually need one or not. If Toyota and Tesla can "pack a lot more battery for longer range" and somehow keep it reasonably affordable they will undoubtedly have a winner here. November can't come fast enough for me!

· · 7 years ago

Scott -

One thing that may temper your enthusiasm is that I heard rumor that it wouldn't be the very latest model that gets the EV treatment - but the previous one. Much like they did with my car. Bought new in 2002, they used the body style from 1996.

· BobW (not verified) · 7 years ago

As long as it doesn't cost $100,000.00 each to build. The original RAV4 EV cost that much. Of course it was a wonderful car.

You can build a terrific EV conversion for $100,000.00. You can build anything if you have a budget.

A practical EV at a mass market price is not so easy.

· · 7 years ago

If Toyota only makes about 1,200 to 1,500 of them like before than sure I would expect them to cost $100,000 each. It's not possible for a major auto manufacturer to make such a small amount of units at a low cost. There was a great demand for them back them, even though Toyota did little to advertise them, had only a few dealers that could order them with salesmen that knew nothing about them. The demand quickly outstripped Toyota's ability to make them(because they weren't expecting a lot of sales) and then Chevron gained the rights to the NiMh battery and wouldn't allow Toyota to use it to power a vehicle. They could only use one small enough to assist a gasoline powered car, like a hybrid. They actually sued Toyota and won.

· · 7 years ago

It's interesting that this would make Toyota the only carmaker (unless I'm forgetting somebody) with solid plans to offer a plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicle. It really seems to me that they have been ahead of the game in terms of realizing that today and tomorrow's car markets are about offering versatility to consumers who will have to be increasingly conscious of their needs in terms of what kinds of cars they drive.

GM says "we've got an extended-range electric vehicle, because nobody is going to want to drive a car that can't take you as far as you could possibly want to go without charging."

Nissan says "we've got a fully electric vehicle, because a lot of people actually do want to drive a car with 100 miles of range.

Toyota says "We've got hybrids, we've got plug-in hybrids, we've got a fully electric SUV and we've even got a pretty good range of gas cars too, because not everyone should be driving the same car.

To be honest, I'm not sure that the oil price spike of 2008 would have really been enough to get electric vehicles on the road in any decent numbers if not for government regulations and incentives. But what I think carmakers will discover (and Toyota seems to already have discovered) is that consumers aren't ever again going to flock to a single type of vehicle the way they did to SUVs in the late 90s/ early 00s.

It will really be interesting to see what kind of production numbers Toyota has planned for the RAV4 and what price range it can deliver it at. It's obviously unlikely to be more than a niche vehicle at first, but judging from the Prius, Toyota seems to be pretty adept at gradually building markets for new types of vehicles rather than picking a technology and claiming that it's "the game-changer."

· · 7 years ago

>> Toyota says "We've got hybrids, we've got plug-in hybrids, we've got a fully electric SUV and we've even got a pretty good range of gas cars too, because not everyone should be driving the same car.

What sticks in my craw (I mean if I actually had a craw) is the question, "What have they been doing since the EV they designed for the 1996 model year?" Gas cars and hybrids, that's what. Oh... and disinformation on ANYTHING with a plug. They stated publicly many times that EVs won't work. They stated many times that PHEVs won't work. I have trouble giving them full credit for this wonderful, future "full line of vehicles" that they're now starting to talk about. I guess it just isn't easy being told, "you're wrong" so many times, then having them finally seeing the light and saying, "Hey, we're right!"

- Darell

· · 7 years ago

Nick is right on with the fact that Toyota will have an impressive lineup once the RAV4 EV and plug in prius are available.

However you do have to ask why the change of heart with plug ins? About a year ago the NY Times interviewed Masatami Takimoto, Toyota’s executive vice president, and he said: “The time is not here" and electric cars “face many challenges,” he said, adding that “to commercialize pure E.V.’s, we need a battery that far exceeds the current technology.”

Unless I missed something, we haven't had any major battery breakthroughs in the past 12 months.

Can you imagine how good the RAV4 EV would be if they kept working on it and improving it since the 1996 model? They wouldn't have to find a small upstart company like Tesla to help them with it, that's for sure.

· · 7 years ago

>> Can you imagine how good the RAV4 EV would be if they kept working on it and improving it since the 1996 model?

I can and very often do! I mean they did SUCH a fantastic job right out of the gate, it would have been child's play to clean up the few little issues, and make improvements incrementally. Would have been fantastic... but then it would have eaten into the amortization of their Hybrid system.

> They wouldn't have to find a small upstart company like Tesla to help them with it, that's for sure.

Truly, that is amazing when a company like Toyota turns to a company like Tesla for help in an area that Toyota could have owned such a short time ago.

· · 7 years ago

Why Toyota waited so long on EVs and decided to depend on another company's batteries is indeed a mystery. But if Toyota really is as satisfied with Tesla's technology as it claims to be, it may not have been such a bad business decision. Though the details and licensing agreements are probably a lot more complex than the details that have been released, Toyota seems to have bought a $50 million dollar stake in Tesla, with almost all of that money coming back in exchange for an idle manufacturing facility in California. That deal (though probably post-dating the first technology-sharing talks,) seems to have at least been enough to formalize the Tesla/Toyota relationship.

When viewed in light of all of the money companies like GM spent getting their electric vehicle and lithium ion battery programs off the ground, Toyota may have made a savvy decision biding its time on in-house development. Once the necessary government incentives were in place in countries around the world, Toyota decided that the time was right to pick an existing technology and build on it.

I'm not saying that this is necessarily what Toyota was thinking or that this is even the best strategy they could have taken (particularly considering that they had already started work on and then abandoned their own EV program years before,) but it's the most positive explanation I can come up with.

Then again, they could just be scrambling. I think the price and production numbers will give us our first clues about how serious Toyota is about this vehicle.

· · 7 years ago

"Then again, they could just be scrambling" I'm going with that theory.

I do think that their recent problems with recalls played a role in their decision making. You read a lot about how some of upper management believes they grew so quickly they lost focus on what made them so successful and that they wanted to "connect" with the customer again.

Perhaps they felt by ignoring the calls to produce a plug in they were starting to stray ever further and decided to make an about face and get in the plug in game. Like you said Zach, time will tell.

· ToyotaSales (not verified) · 7 years ago

I don't know how many people really read about the history of Toyota. Most people do not realize that Toyota is a very conservative company overall. They always make major decisions based on years of consultation and complete consensus of major decision makers. They also would not jump into a manufacturing decision just because people out there are demanding it. Their first generation Rav4 EV was a decision forced on them by CA zero emissions requirements. CA is one of the biggest markets for them and they had to sell a certain amount of zero emission vehicles to be able to access the market. Their decision making process takes years to materilize and their planning spans 10-20 years. When the time is right and the market is mature and profitability is within sight of 2-3 years you'll see a flood of new offerings. Having Mr. Toyoda in the helm will also improve the odds of faster reaction to market and more choices for the customers.

· · 7 years ago

You may be right that Toyota is conservative. But we are talking about a real about face in a very short period of time, less than a year. Look at quotes from top Toyota executives in 2009 and it would seem like they weren't even going to consider doing a plug in car. The technology isn't there yet, today's batteries aren't viable, we see plug in cars as nothing but niche vehicles, etc.
Now a few months later they announce a plug in prius and a BEV rav4. These weren't decisions that they planned for years. If so, they wouldn't be calling on a little start up company like Tesla to help them catch up quickly.

· ToyotaSales (not verified) · 7 years ago

To be realistic, I would consider 20,000 plugin prius production the first year a niche vehicle category considering Toyota sells that number of hybrids per month globally. Also to be honest, the reliability of lithium batteries over the long term (8-10 yrs ) still remains to be seen. I agree that technology has been there already over all but I think they were surprised by Nissan's aggresive stance in terms of their production targets and their drive to lower battery costs. The only reason I see them approching Tesla is because of their cost advantage of standardized cells.

· · 7 years ago

Great points Tom. "niche" vehicle or not... just making them (without mandate) is huge - and a drastica change of face from such a short time ago. I agree that Toyota is a conservative company. But they managed to turn the big ship around in a hurry because somebody was about to eat their cake.

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