2010 LA Auto Show: 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV Powered By Tesla

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As they say, everything old is new again.

Fourteen years after it launched its very first RAV4 crossover at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Toyota returned to LA to launch an all-electric version of its latest RAV4.

And this one is, as the logos in a teaser photo released earlier said, "powered by Tesla."

The launch of the second version of the RAV4 EV is on a fast timeline, led by a working group made up of Toyota's Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a team from Tesla Motors.

In Toyota's words, the team has treated the project as similar to a typical mid-cycle “major-minor” product change. Starting with a current RAV4, it was viewed as a major powertrain upgrade along with minor changes to features and cosmetics.

Japan's largest automaker has worked with Silicon Valley electric-car maker Tesla since the May announcement that Toyota would buy a stake in Tesla and the companies would develop electric cars together.

L.A. Auto Show: Toyota RAV4 EV teasers

L.A. Auto Show: Toyota RAV4 EV teasers

Enlarge Photo

The partnership will build 35 "Phase Zero" test versions of the latest RAV4 EV next year, with production launch expected in 2012.

Few technical details were released, and Toyota USA president and CEO Jim Lentz stressed that many details remained to be resolved. Those include final manufacturing site, technical specifications, and pricing.

Tesla will build the lithium-ion battery pack and various other electrical components at its new facility in Palo Alto, California, and Toyota will manufacture the cars at its current assembly plant in Woodstock, Ontario.

L.A. Auto Show: Toyota RAV4 EV teasers

L.A. Auto Show: Toyota RAV4 EV teasers

Enlarge Photo

The goal for the car, said Lentz, is to offer driveability capabilities at least comparable to the existing RAV4, despite a weight penalty he estimated at 220 pounds. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is currently almost as good as the V-6 version of the RAV4.

Styling changes to the all-white RAV4 EV unveiled at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show include a new grille front bumper, fog lamps and headlights up front. Inside is custom seat trim, changes to the dashboard displays, and a Tesla-style push-button shifter.

No cargo area was lost in the conversion; with the rear seats folded down, the RAV4 EV offers 73 cubic feet of storage, just as the current gasoline model does.

Nonetheless, the news should make the hundreds of owners of eight- to 12-year-old first-generation RAV4 EVs happy. Of the 1,484 built over six years, almost 750 are still on the road.

Within two years, those owners will be able to replace their aging electric vehicles.

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