At the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, Toyota unveiled a very special prototype, the all-electric RAV4 EV. According to Toyota, there will be 35 working prototypes built, which will be used for demonstration and evaluation purposes and, if everything goes according to plan, we’ll witness a production model going on sale in 2012.
What’s even more interesting is the new partnership Toyota started, with California-based electric vehicle company Tesla Motors, which supplied the Japanese carmaker with the battery and other related parts, while Toyota was responsible with the development and integration of the powertrain.
“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, Toyota Motor Sales. “The result was a hybrid – a new decision and approval process and a development style that our engineers refer to as “fast and flexible.”
The project is led by Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America (TEMA) Techincal Center in Michigan and what they did was basically took a current-generation RAV4 and made major changes to the powertrain and also a set of cosmetic and other features addition.
According to Toyota, one of their major challenges was how to build practically a new car, with a different powertrain, but which had to behave like the ‘conventional RAV’ and comply with customers expectations. “From the beginning, the customer experience has been the focus,” said Lentz. “In other words, how do we deliver an unconventional product to mainstream customers that is compelling and affordable and that offers an acceptable level of daily convenience.”
And just an example of what challenges they had to overcome is the fact that the electric RAV4 is 220 pounds heavier than the fossil fuel powered ones. And Toyota engineers did wonders with the EV accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in about the same time. This was made possible by redesigning major components, like the suspension and steering, while other parts were moved for better weight distribution. A large part of the extra weight is caused by the battery, the EV being powered by a lithium metal oxide batter which outputs around 30 kWh. However, Toyota officials said this type of battery is used only for testing purposes, because the final product’s specs, pricing and volume projections have not yet been decided.
Another part which isn’t decided yet is the RAV4 EV’s assembly location, Toyota currently considering several location. The only known aspects are that the basic vehicle will be built at the Woodstock, Ontario plant, while the batteries will be made by Tesla at their Palo Alto production facility, with details about method and installation details to be decided later.