Toyota has high hopes for RAV4 EV


Toyota is hoping to shake up the electric vehicle market today with the announcement of its plans to produce a RAV4 EV capable of traveling 100 miles (160 km) on electric power.

The Toyota/Tesla collaboration will see the assembly of 35 second-generation RAV4 EVs for a demonstration and evaluation program throughout 2011. The automaker has set 2012 as a sales date target.

“When we decided to work together on the RAV4 EV, president Akio Toyoda wanted to adopt a new development model that incorporated Tesla’s streamlined, quick-action approach,” said Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer, TMS.  

“The result was a hybrid – a new decision and approval process and a development style that our engineers refer to as fast and flexible.”  

Led by the Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America (TEMA) Technical Center in Michigan, the new development model helped reduce development time by approaching the project as they would a “typical mid-cycle product change.”  

Specifically, midway through a generation, the team began with a fully engineered current-generation RAV4, to which was added a major powertrain option, along with refreshed feature and cosmetic changes.

Tesla was responsible for building and supplying the battery, as well as other related parts, that met specific Toyota engineering specifications in performance, quality and durability.  Toyota was responsible for development and manufacturing leadership and the seamless integration of the powertrain. 

The demonstration vehicle weighs approximately 220 pounds (about 100 kg) more than the current RAV4 V6 yet it will accelerate nearly as quickly. 

“This added weight factor required significant retuning of major components and a prioritized focus on weight distribution,” Toyota said in a release today. Not only were suspension and steering modified significantly, major components needed to be relocated to better balance the increased mass of the battery pack.  

The demonstration vehicle Toyota is currently testing is powered by a lithium metal oxide battery with useable output rated in the mid-30 kwh range.

However, the company notes, many decisions regarding both the product, as well as the business model, have not been finalized. Battery size and final output ratings, as well as pricing and volume projections of the vehicle Toyota plans to bring to market in 2012, have not been decided. 

As for a final assembly location, Toyota is considering many options and combinations.  The basic vehicle will continue to be built at its production facility in Woodstock, Ontario, though final installation of the battery and many powertrain components will take place at a new facility in Palo Alto, Calif.  

The method and installation location of the Tesla components into the vehicle is being discussed.