Tesla to Build Electric Toyota RAV4s

We knew Toyota was interested in Tesla’s electric tech when it invested $50 million in the company earlier this year. We didn’t think the Japanese powerhouse would actually outsource development of an electric Toyota product to the company, at least this soon.
Tesla will develop an all-electric RAV4 compact SUV for Toyota to go on sale in 2012, according to USA Today. One prototype is already being tested with a larger test fleet to be built later this year.
It’s an interesting move on many levels. Toyota has maintained the lead in green sales since the second-generation Prius went on sale. The current Prius outsells every other hybrid on the market many times over, and it is the most fuel-efficient car on the road.
It’s strange that a company that heralded the latest Prius being designed by 1,000 Toyota engineers would allow a small start-up to take the reins on what could be its first all-electric vehicle to go on sale in the U.S. Add the recent questioning of Toyota’s storied reliability after millions of recalls and the move seems even riskier.
Tesla and Toyota Will Produce Electric RAV4 (USA Today)



This is a great move by Toyota. Electric technology is proven reliable, and Tesla already makes it. So why not use it in a vehicle that is already a proven reliable production vehicle. This marriage makes perfect sense and gets Toyota into the suddenly hot all-electric car game.


This would not be Toyota's first all electric vehicle on sale in the US. It wouldn't even be the first all electric RAV4.

It will be the first for general consumers though. We're not talking test and commercial fleets.


Why did Toyota go outsource it to Tesla? Their electric engine needs a long time to charge (I believe you need to charge overnight) and will only get you at best 250 miles. This is only a 4-5 hour trip for most drivers. Another downside is you need to find a recharge station outside of CA, which I am guessing is still a good 3-5 years away.

The best EV engine, in my opinion, to power the RAV 4 would be something similar to the one in the Volt. It can extend the range by incorporating an electric generator to continuously recharge the battery. So why not just license the technology from Chevy / GMC? It presents a better option and may be ready in a little under 2 years.

Amuro Ray

I'm actually surprised by this "news" as it's not really a "new" news per se. RAV4 EV was produced until 2003, and then discontinued due to extremely low sales*, as stated in this Toyota Press Release.


IOW, this was done before. The technology and infrastructure WAS there at one time. I wonder what makes Toyota to "rethink" this all over again, and confident that 2nd time is the chime?

*As per wiki, sales were actually pretty good! There was a long line of waiting list for RAV4 EV when it was available to the general public in 2003, but Toyota suddenly stopped sales of the vehicle the same yr despite the waiting list. It was sold/leased from 1997-2003 to gov't and businesses only.


This is not a strange development at all. Tesla has a superior traction battery compared to Toyota's last go round with the electric Rav 4. It uses lithium ion batteries, while the Prius uses Nickel metal hydride cells with less energy density. Tesla's control system is state of the art - there's no doubt they're the best all-electric drive system going right now. It will be interesting to learn the range of the converted Rav 4. I'm guessing it will be better than the Leaf's, allowing Toyota to leapfrog Nissan on the range issue. Interestingly, I believe much of Tesla's system is based on one developed by AC propulsion, founded by the guy who designed the electric drive for the GM EV1.


Amuro beat me to it. From wikipedia (though unsourced there)

"In March 2002, due to a shift in corporate policy, the Toyota RAV4-EV was made available for sale to the general public, but only 328 of them sold."


Matt C

I still can't see getting behind this EV craze. Maybe if I lived in a place where everything I needed and wanted was only 10 to 15 miles away and I never took a road trip. It is still too expensive to be worth it.
To the post earlier, where has the electric vehicle been proven reliable? What is the standard for reliable for an electric vehicle? I don't know of anyone that has had one for 100k or 200k miles.


Matt -
We have to start somewhere. The more ev's that are built/sold then the more advanced the technology will become - also the more the infrastructure will be forced to adapt. When cars were first built there were very few paved streets, no interstate system, street lights etc.

Amuro Ray

@ Zack,

Not sure if you work for Tesla or not, but I don't have the same optimism as to Tesla technology - esp when u said that it's the best all-electric drive system going right now. For a small, aerodynamic 2 seater maybe, but such data can't extrapolate and apply on a 4-dr, big and non-aerodynamic RAV4 (relative to the Tesla 2 seater). Without any experimental proof, I don't know how you can support your own statements.

Granted though, Tesla does seem to have a great system, and I ain't debating that. But remember, COST is the #1 thg that makes or breaks car sales. If RAV4 EV is gonnabe sold @ $40-50K before any tax incentive (and I don't know if it'll have any since Toyota sold so many hybrids already), then this will be a sales dud.


No commercially available electric car has the 200 plus mile range of the Tesla - that's the proof they know what they're doing. GM's battery for the Volt, though smaller, may be as good or even better, but we'll have to wait and see and for now Tesla's No. 1. They seem to have mastered temperature and voltage control for the battery pack. Toyota knows a good deal when they see it and put their own money into Tesla. Cost and range are big questions but companies like Tesla and Magna, which is doing the system for the electric Ford Focus, want to get into the business of offering cost effective systems that can be adapted to existing vehicles.


this isnt that big of a stretch...the Rav4 has massive bins under the rear cargo floor in models with a 3rd row. these could easily hold big batteries. in fact, they could probably put them underneath the 2nd row as well to raise it up a bit; it really could use some more thigh support.

that said, its a wonder to me why toyota hasn't put the Camry hybrid's powertrain in the Rav4 already. it could easily hold all of the batteries without even coming close to impeding on cargo space, and it already gets pretty good fuel economy with the 2.5L engine. plus, they could give it AWD with a system similar to the Highlander's that uses a separate electric motor rather than a driveshaft.


I agree. They would get good mpg out of a Rav4 hybrid. Highlander hybrid gets okay mileage but at a pretty high price.


Toyota will have a Hybrid in most every vehicle in its product lineup in the next 3-5 years if they think that is the best way to meet the new MPG standards imposed by Congress. The RAV4 is the easist vehicle to convert to an EV right now, good post. Electric cars have been proven reliable because of the early results of Tesla and because the battery, motor, and other components are now known to be reliable. Toyota bought into Tesla almost strictly for their superior battery technology and because it gets them into the EV game faster than they could do it on their own.

so pretty.You are a good teacher. Lucky student!

Toyota RAV4s use electricity to move? That model is great except from its design but its power. I wish I could have one Toyota RAV4s!!

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